The Canberra economy is poised to take a further financial hit measured in tens of millions of dollars over summer as the loss of major money-spinners such as Floriade and Summernats take their toll.
The ACT economy lost almost $800 million of activity between March and June. Back in August, the Chief Minister previously foreshadowed the ACT Budget deficit was expected to swell to almost $1 billion this financial year.
The losses come as the latest employment numbers sit at 9.3 per cent and the federal Treasury warned in a statement on Thursday "there are further risks, there are further challenges ahead [and] there are further unknowns".
Floriade usually contributes over $40 million in visitor revenue and Summernats, which was cancelled this week, around $30 million.
Further doubt also has been cast on big events at the tail-end of summer such as Enlighten and the Royal Canberra Show.
The loss of the 2021 Summernats, previously scheduled for January 7-10 next year, was attributed to the host facility, Exhibition Park In Canberra (EPIC), currently being used for drive-through COVID testing and the inability of the ACT government to provide any certainty around when that testing facility would not be needed.
The equal reality for organisers however, was that the cost of staging such a large-scale event for such a limited number of patrons - most likely capped at 5000 - was uneconomic.
Uncertainty forced the hand of organisers who are now transferring the event to Eastern Creek, in western Sydney, within the same timeframe and working to a reduced scale, limiting patron numbers to 5000, including entrants.
All tickets already purchased for Summernats at EPIC will automatically transfer to January 2022 at the 2021 prices, including camping passes and allocated campsites.
Around 30,000 people, mostly interstate visitors, come to the ACT for Summernats.
Back in 2013, it rated fifth on Canberra's official "favourite things" behind Floriade (cancelled) and Skifire (also cancelled).
A report commissioned five years ago found that almost a third of those who attended the 2016 Summernats said the festival and their experience while in Canberra had changed their perception of the city for the better, and two-thirds said their experience had made them want to return to see more.
With all major upcoming sporting drawcards such as Big Bash cricket games, the Prime Minister's XI, and any activity at Manuka Oval effectively suspended further notice, there's now a yawning chasm in Canberra's summer events schedule.
The 50-over cricket clash between Australia and New Zealand had been set down for Manuka Oval on January 29, but the future of the contest is highly uncertain. So, too, is the national women's team one-day match against New Zealand at Manuka Oval a week on January 22.
The key question for the ACT government now is how to fill that void.
David Marshall, who chairs the Canberra Region Tourism Leaders' Forum and is a former head of ACT Tourism, said that his group had been asked by the Chief Minister to pull together a "creative committee" to "brainstorm ideas".
"The concern now is not just about the economic impact of losing that $30 million which Summernats brings in, but also the big events for early next year such as Enlighten, the Royal Canberra Show, the Multicultural Festival and the National Folk Festival at Easter because there's a timeframe here which is still uncertain," Mr Marshall said.
"Events are important to the ACT because the visitor surveys tell us that when people are asked, they say: 'give us a good reason to come to Canberra and we will'."