The postponement of the National Fieldays event will have economic impacts reaching far beyond simply the income generated over the three days of the event, businesses say.
The Fieldays event, which was supposed to run over three days in June, was postponed until November as worldwide shipping delays meant many exhibitors were finding it challenging to source the newest models of agriculture equipment and technology to showcase, or source sufficient stock in time.
Organisers said they wanted to avoid the worst effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
James Doolan, strategic director for the Hotel Council Aotearoa, said the postponement had meant large numbers of accommodation bookings were cancelled. Hamilton hotels were historically fully booked for eight to nine days across the event.
“Demand is so high [during this time] that it’s not unusual for people to have to drive in to the event each day from out of town, even as far away as Auckland,” Doolan said.
“The lost June bookings are unlikely to be replaced with demand from elsewhere. Unlike retail goods, hotel room nights cannot be stockpiled or experienced online. There's no such thing as pent-up demand for yesterday's unsold hotel stay,” he said.
He said “virus fear” suppressed domestic demand for travel and overnight accommodation.
A 2019 Economic Impact Report by Dr Warren Hughes, from the New Zealand Institute for Business Research at the University of Waikato, showed that the event generated about $4.29 million of direct spending as a result of accommodation booked in the Waikato.
Airbnb and Booking.com did not want to disclose booking and cancellation data.
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The impact report also showed that Fieldays contributed $183m to the Waikato economy in 2019, with $549m generated in sales revenue for New Zealand firms. There was $247m additional GDP generated for the New Zealand economy in 2019, with an about $80m addition to the Waikato GDP.
Hamish Lamb, owner of X-Site, an event infrastructure company, said it would have supplied about 18,000 square metres of marquee tent infrastructure at the June Fieldays.
“These bookings have now all been lost until November,” Lamb said.
X-Site employed an additional 15 staff members for the build period of the event. The company now has no agriculture event booked until September 3 this year. It has have not had a major event since New Zealand went into level 3 lockdown in August 2021.
“Our revenue has been down 80 per cent since the August 2021 lockdown. We rely on Fieldays to get us through the winter,” Lamb said.
Lamb said he knew of events companies that have let more than 70 per cent of their staff go as a result of lock down impacts on the industry.
The impact report showed that Fieldays sustained more than 2000 full-year jobs, both full and part-time, in the total economy, with about 900 full-year jobs generated for the Waikato economy in 2019.
Lisa Hopkins, Business Events Industry Aotearoa chief executive, said that due to previous lock-downs and cancellation of events over the last two years, Fieldays was one of the only sources of income that some events companies had to rely on.
Cancellations over the last two years meant that events organisers had changed the way they do business. Where organisers would usually be paid in instalments they were now asking for money up front, or were putting tight contracts in place as they wanted guarantees of income, Hopkins said.
Hopkins’ main concern was the financial impact on the supply chain.
Intermediaries who put together exhibitions for larger organisations often did not have terms in their contract for payment and those who had committee infrastructure would not be paid until late in the year, she said.
There were also many opportunity losses that had to be considered, as many event organisers would have had to decline organising events in June because they were pre-booked for Fieldays.
“This demonstrates to the government that the impact of events being cancelled is far-reaching. The event is only a catalyst [for business],” Hopkins said.
Peter Scott, ANZ manager for Fendt Sales at AGCO Corporation, a farm equipment supplier based in Hamilton, said the business primarily used the event to stay in contact with customers who often planned equipment purchases for the coming seasons.
Due to supply chain disruptions many equipment suppliers were not able to get the newest models sourced in time from overseas suppliers. Fieldays was a platform to display new equipment models and new technologies, he said.
AGCO would have attended the June event, but had not yet decided whether it would attend the November event, which was a busy time in the agricultural calendar, especially for customers.
Scott did not want to discuss the revenue generated from such an event.
The impact report showed that in 2019 over $346m of revenue was generated through equipment sales as a result of Fieldays.
Lamb said he knew that many small support businesses of the events industry had lost more than 70 per cent of staff as a result of ongoing event cancellation. This would now be worsened by the Fieldays postponement.
Fieldays attracted more than 132 000 visitors in 2021. Every gate entry visitor from outside the Waikato region spent just over $300 in Waikato hospitality sectors such as accommodation, restaurants, bars and retail trade in 2019. This excluded equipment sales, the impact report showed.
Peter Nation, chief executive of Fieldays, said many of the impacts of a postponement were hard to measure.
Fieldays was focusing on attendee wellness and for example held health screenings of visitors that could be life-saving in the long run.
He said in 2019 there had been more than 3000 international visitors, with eleven international exhibitions.
Overseas patrons and exhibitors injected $9m into New Zealand's transport, tourist and hospitality sectors in 2019, the report said.
“New Zealand is busy with free#-trade agreements, it would be nice to see international guests to reinforce business and maybe spend extra tourism dollars,” Nation said.