International Convention Center Sydney opened doors in December 2016 as Australia’s first fully-integrated harbourside convention, exhibition and entertainment venue. As a benchmark for one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world designed to respond to future demands of the meetings industry, we wanted to know how this bastion of Asia Pacific is overcoming the lockdown imposed by Covid-19 and the economic slowdown in the industry. Geoff Donaghy, CEO of ICC Sydney, was the interlocutor of this conversation.
Headquarters: How is this general stalemate caused by the Covid-19 pandemic affecting your business as a meeting destination?
Geoff Donaghy: The outbreak of COVID-19 is having an unprecedented impact on people, livelihoods and businesses across the globe. Alongside our colleagues and friends in the events industry across Australia, ICC Sydney has been feeling the impact deeply, though in many countries the situation is already much bleaker.
With the progressive measures taken over the last few weeks by the Australian Federal Government to protect our country, we now find ourselves in a situation where all indoor events have been shut down. For venues such as ICC Sydney, this means we are no longer able to deliver nearly all events. In these circumstances adapting to the current situation and looking to the future has proved absolutely critical.
HQ: How are you countering all this situation to overcome the current crisis?
GD: One key way ICC Sydney has adapted to the current situation is by shifting our focus to deliver more online events. Our team of experts has set up audio visual services that enable clients to continue to connect with their audiences through broadcast and telecast technologies.
The service includes live or recorded web streaming, remote presentations, video conferencing and a broadcast studio. We’re proud that this has already been used with success a couple of times and resulted in numerous further enquiries. Such is the demand, we are now building a second studio.
As well as adapting our product offering, our top priority has been retaining ICC Sydney’s incredible team, which has been the driving force behind building the venue’s reputation for delivering world class events. As our number one asset, the team will be critical to our recovery and the future of the events industry in Australia.
We have protected permanent team members to date by moving them into new work streams, including working from home where feasible, or keeping them employed on site undertaking a full venue refresh and overhaul activities. All of this is being undertaken in line with the highest levels of health and safety. This has enabled us to ensure everyone remains gainfully employed and safe at this time.
ICC Sydney is also working closely with industry representative bodies, including the peak national body, Business Events Council of Australia, to contribute to lobbying and submissions to the Federal Government for ongoing support for our industry. This includes an appropriate focus on recovery. I have also been in discussion with the Government of New South Wales on the potential use of the venue to support emergency service controls and logistics at this time.
Finally, I am pleased that even in the current climate our Business Development team continues to work closely with clients who are already looking to the future and starting to place bookings for next year and beyond. This will ensure the healthiest possible pipeline of business when we come out the other side of this crisis.
HQ: After this step back, what is the strategy and main goal that your business will apply to return to its original form? Or do you see this setback as an opportunity for change?
GD: I cannot downplay the impact that a pandemic combined with an economic downturn is having on ICC Sydney, the events industry and the wider economy.
Until earlier this year, Australia’s business events sector brought $2.5 billion into the economy every month, making it the highest yielding component of our visitor economy. In FY 2018-19 ICC Sydney alone generated A$896 million in direct expenditure for the State.
Further, since opening our doors in 2016 ICC Sydney has worked to contribute to the intellectual and cultural capital of our home State – from supporting regional producers, to championing local talent, engaging with our communities and implementing sustainable practices.
This is why it is absolutely critical that while we deal with and adapt to the crisis at hand, we also keep a strong focus on the future, and our recovery and relaunch as a world class venue. ICC Sydney is already putting in place strategies and measures to do this, which includes working with the wider industry and its bodies.
Among all the uncertainty there is one certainty; at some point this crisis will end. Our industry, and ICC Sydney as part of that, will be at the forefront of local and national economic recovery – we must ensure that we are ready from the moment that begins.
Supported by the Union of International Associations (UIA), the International Association of Professional Congress Organisers (IAPCO) and the Interel Group, the global public affairs and association management consultancy, Headquarters Magazines serve the needs of international associations organising worldwide congresses.