Business Events News
KNOWLEDGE GAP - ICC CHIEF
THE so-called “knowledge economy” facilitating informal information exchange during events is one of the silent sufferers of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Geoff Donaghy, CEO of Sydney’s International Convention Centre.
Speaking to BEN last week, Donaghy said while there were clearly tangible impacts on jobs and economic downturn pulverising the industry, also of concern was the lack of incidental encounters which come with in-person gatherings.
“It’s not all about what happens in the main lecture halls - many innovations and connections happen through face-to-face networking and casual conversations which have in the past led to longterm partnerships and real breakthroughs,” he said.
ICC Sydney had been heavily hit by the pandemic, Donaghy confirmed, with the venue’s revenue for 2020/21 expected to be down as much as 90%.
And while recovery is on the horizon, that will improve to about 50% of 2019 income “at best” in the 2021/22 fiscal year.
Donaghy said he was confident the industry would recover, with ICC Sydney having a very strong pipeline of events.
He said he expected the corporate market would recover more quickly than associations, which are slower-moving and in some cases have simply missed their “slots” in 2020 and 2021 and will resume their normal schedule in other destinations as travel reopens post COVID.
The ICC chief said the Venueshield program implemented right across the portfolio of parent group ASM Global had put the Centre in good stead to ensure ongoing COVID-19 safety, noting that ICC Sydney had not closed at all during the last 12 months.
“We have hosted more than 200 events over that period - of course most have been virtual, or pro bono, but we quickly established infrastructure and procedures which would allow us to continue to operate.”
MEANWHILE asked about the Government’s $50 million Business Events Grants Program, Donaghy expressed concern that only a small proportion of the funding had been accessed at this stage.
He said the lobbying efforts of the Business Events Council of Australia (BECA) had achieved a great top-line outcome, but details of the implementation and the criteria for applications “didn’t match the reality of how the industry works”.
Donaghy said BECA was continuing to work with officials to address the “disconnects” of the program, to ensure it can be “cleaned up and simplified” so it has the desired impact.