CEO Update – March 2021

15 Mar 2021

15 March 2021

It has now been one year since COVID-19 disrupted the Australian business events sector. While the impact has been severe and far-reaching, we are firmly on the path to a meaningful recovery. As the COVID-19 vaccination program rolls out, interstate borders stay open and government restrictions ease, our industry has been able to regain momentum in recent weeks.

We still have a long way to go and we continue to keep a watchful eye across current health updates or potential outbreaks, however, with one of the world’s most robust contact tracing systems in place complementing our stringent safety measures, we are optimistic for the domestic markets recovery. In the last fortnight, we safely welcomed more than 4,000 delegates to ICC Sydney for the Small Business Champion Awards, the Destination Australia Conference and the Committee for Sydney Summit, amongst other events.

It was wonderful to witness our extraordinary team in action, adhering to rigorous health and safety measures while delivering world class service. It is my hope that the positive trajectory continues and that our events calendar continues to progressively grow and return to pre-COVID volumes for the collective benefit of clients, delegates and our surrounding community.

Along with our desires to see consistency on interstate border closures and hot spot parameters, a swift vaccination roll out and subsequent opening of international borders and relaxing of quarantine on visitors, we are also being vocal about the impact of COVID-19 on Australia’s knowledge economy.

The financial impact of the pandemic on Australia’s economic health has been well and truly documented. However, what has not been so widely acknowledged is the long-term impact of cancelled events and conferences on Australia’s knowledge economy. It is a silent, but huge sufferer in this pandemic.

Business events deliver much more than travel and hospitality spend, as significant as that is. They are a driving force for innovation, providing researchers and practitioners with a platform to discuss and disseminate new ideas. They are where the brightest minds come together to solve the world’s problems – from health and medical breakthroughs, technology and ethics, engineering and development, to environmental sustainability and more.

Meeting in person allows for networking opportunities, business exchanges, recruitment efforts and introductions. Some of the greatest business ideas, scientific developments and technical innovations have been sparked during an event workshop or in the corridors outside of formal sessions. Connections are made and actions are taken, which otherwise may never have taken place.

Along with the reactivation of the visitor economy, the knowledge economy forms part of the advocacy platform for the business events industry. It is yet another reason why we need to bring the return of face-to-face events into the foreground and make this our primary focus in 2021.

Geoff Donaghy, CEO, ICC Sydney