Events venues and organisers in the ACT are pinning their hopes on a successful vaccine rollout after a horror year for the industry.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr said major events are still some way off returning in the territory, and warned they would either need to be postponed or follow revised formats for some time.
"It is highly unlikely that Floriade, or any other major events in 2021 and possibly 2022, will run in a pre-COVID or normal format. All large events will continue to have to be reimagined in some manner to ensure we can reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading as much as possible," Mr Barr said.
It comes as the ACT government confirmed it would order enough plant stock for a large-scale Floriade in Commonwealth Park, but conceded it was highly unlikely the event would go ahead in that format later this year.
Mr Barr said: "While the vaccine for COVID-19 gets closer, there are still many unknowns about how it will work and therefore the idea of large-scale events where large numbers of people are crammed into small spaces will be off the agenda for the foreseeable future."
The ACT government has also committed to a new winter festival, which a spokeswoman for Events ACT said would be ticketed and small-scale.
National Convention Centre Canberra general manager Stephen Wood said a lack of business confidence in booking events was the biggest drag on the centre after COVID-19 restrictions eased in the ACT.
"If business is constantly nervous about whether they're going to be able to attend or not, that makes it very hard for them to plan and proceed," Mr Wood said.
Mr Wood agreed government preparation for a large-scale event like Floriade would help build confidence for other types of events in Canberra.
"Once we have our first major conference and it goes ahead and it goes ahead well, that kind of provides that confidence for everyone else ... It's not that people don't want these things to happen, it's more about the risks involved, both financial and from a COVID perspective," he said.
The convention centre has a growing number of events pencilled in for 2021, but some of these events were booked before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
Mr Wood said a successful vaccine rollout would be a very significant moment for the sector.
"Perhaps that's what we really need to get to, where events can really fully come back," he said.
"It would be great to get some clarity as to when realistically the government thinks that will mean people can begin to return to a more normal way of business and life.
"We sort of have some expectations of how quickly it can roll out. It would be nice to say, 'As a result of this, we would be estimating that businesses should feel they can return to business as normal by this date.'"
National Folk Festival president Stephen Gallacher said the festival organisers were focused on 2022 and were hopeful a larger event could be held next year. This year's and last year's festivals were cancelled.
"It's really going to take a successful vaccine being rolled out and discussions with the government to say that they're happy for the numbers to start increasing," Mr Gallacher said.
Mr Gallacher said the festival would push a decision on its 2022 instalment as far back as possible, but it would need to be made in the second half of the year.
"Fingers crossed," he said.
But Dave Caffery, the founder of Canberra-based Dionysus Cultural Development, said event organisers should not wait for the vaccine as a solution, because social distancing and contact tracing will still be necessary after its initial rollout.
"This is a chance for more boutique events - [fewer] queues, easier parking, higher-value products at things like markets, but lower-tier artists due to lower ticket sales and international travel restrictions," Mr Caffery said.
"Rescheduling events will become a norm. For our bigger events, we're spilling them over multiple days or booking contingency dates."
Mr Caffery said the combination of COVID-19, which meant outdoor events were preferred, and La Nina, which brought more frequent and unexpected rain, meant the appetite for investing in larger outdoor events was reduced.
"That said, event managers are desperate and they're likely to risk the rain. We kindly ask audiences to appreciate this difficulty and put up with some drizzle if you've bought a ticket. Ticket refunds will kill many event managers this year," he said.
Mr Caffery said the purpose of events was to create social connection, the opposite of social distancing. He said it placed the sector at a crossroads, which would see special offerings at bigger events die out.
"If the Australian Open goes well, the future of Australian events is bright. But if it doesn't, the whole industry will be in trouble and audiences will experience a damaged sector for many years to come," he said.