It’s been almost 12 months since COVID-19 hit Australia and abruptly shut down the business events industry. Events including conventions, symposiums, association meetings and trade exhibitions all disappeared overnight.
The financial impact of the pandemic on Australia’s economic health has been well and truly documented. Specifically looking at our industry, the Business Council of Australia (BECA) reported a loss of $A35 billion in direct expenditure to the Australian economy and over 230,000 jobs being impacted as a result of the pandemic.
However, this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are other impacts not so easily quantified, but with enormous ramifications that will continue to have a lasting effect long after the pandemic has retreated.
As I reflect one year on, one such ramification that hasn’t been widely acknowledged is the long term impact on Australia’s knowledge economy which is silently suffering.
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. For example, The University of New South Wales (UNSW) was awarded a $A17.7 million grant from the National Health and Medical Research Council to support research into HIV AIDS as a direct result of the World Aids Conference held in Sydney. They also received an $A18 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to support a research study into HIV drug therapy while being recognised as an international leader in HIV AIDS research.