CEO, GEOFF DONAGHY, TALKS TO THE AUSTRALIAN ABOUT THE IMPACT OF COVID-19 ON EVENT
Two weeks ago I spoke with The Australian’s magazine, The Deal, about how the business events industry has been dealt an unprecedented blow by COVID-19. I discussed the impact of the pandemic, how the industry has been responding and why I am confident that we will emerge from this crisis stronger than ever.
When I spoke with the journalist, I was aware that by the time of publication (this weekend) the situation may have completely changed. I prefaced nearly every response with “at this point in time” because while I have seen disruptions before – including the SARS and MERS pandemics, natural disasters and the global financial crisis – nothing has hit with the speed and scale of COVID-19 – or evolved as rapidly.
Despite this, when I reviewed the article this weekend the key points remained as relevant as at the time of discussion. Namely, how the industry must adapt and innovate to tackle the crisis at hand, while simultaneously keeping a sharp focus on recovery. Both are critical to our survival today and success tomorrow.
Here I want to share key outtakes from the interview. These are things which I have also been talking about with the team here at ICC Sydney, our clients, my colleagues from across the industry, Government and media, since the crisis first broke, and will continue to do so.
THE PERSONAL AND ECONOMIC IMPACT OF COVID-19
What sets COVID-19 apart from disruptions previously experienced is the scale of uncertainty and anxiety it has created. Without any indication of the full impact or end in sight, it is incredibly hard for businesses and communities to know how to respond.
For ICC Sydney, our business is built on bringing people together – for balls, concerts, exhibitions, meetings and conferences. We normally employ over 400 full-time staff and 1,000 casuals, however, in just a few short months this has drastically changed, as I explained to The Australian:
“We have asked full-time staff to take leave or work from home, while some are working in separated teams at the venue. But we have no work at all for those casuals”.
With this comes a knock-on effect on the wider economy and communities in which we operate.
“Typically, when someone comes into the city for an exhibition or event, something like only 8 to 10 per cent of what they spend will flow through our P&L. The rest goes to hotels, accommodation, taxis, entertainment and restaurants.
“But another unforeseen aspect of this is that ICC has a philosophy of buying directly from NSW farmers and producers. If we’re not putting food on the table or wine in wine glasses, it’s a product that we’re not buying from a NSW regional area. So, the impact of no events coming through here is amplified right across the economy, not just in Sydney.”