Business Events News



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.

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