Speaking to Geoff Donaghy, CEO of ICC Sydney, we asked how the venue is supporting the industry, ensuring a COVID-safe environment, and how they plan to continue to have success in 2021.
1. How has ICC Sydney adapted to hosting events in the current environment?
The outbreak of COVID-19 and resultant gathering and travel restrictions across Australia and New South Wales, have completely changed the operating environment for ICC Sydney and our clients for the foreseeable future.
Since March, we have continuously evolved our services in response to client needs and, thanks to our world class team, have been able to quickly tackle any challenges head on.
For example, following the initial shut down of all in person events, ICC Sydney innovated to launch virtual events services and rapidly evolved these into our industry-leading Hybrid Event Solutions, which seamlessly merges technology with live experiences. This has enabled our clients to continue to run events with peace of mind, both during the height of the pandemic and as restrictions ease.
We were also one of the first venues in Australia to establish a comprehensive set of operating principles – the ICC Sydney EventSafe Operating Guide – to enable and expedite the safe operating and return of in-person events. The rigorous set of protocols spans 16 key areas of event management and integrates best practice from parent group ASM Global’s VenueShield.
2. How have ICC Sydney worked to ensure staff/client/customer relations during this time?
Throughout the pandemic, we have maximised direct communications with our clients and stakeholders, while taking a flexible approach to changing event dates and capacities. We are committed to keeping clients fully informed on the current state of affairs at ICC Sydney and our destination via regular updates, even if we don’t always have positive news to share.
As a people-first organisation, we have done our utmost to provide clear and frequent communications to all team members – full time, stood down and casuals.
As well as increasing the volume and frequency of business updates, we have placed a strong focus on team wellbeing and support. We have provided all team members with access to an external counselling service, appointed a Wellness and Communications Committee to oversee team engagement initiatives and we have launched a dedicated wellbeing hub on our intranet.
Internally, we have also launched TeamSafe. This framework provides detailed guidelines and mandatory training on practices that help ensure ICC Sydney’s team can safely win, run and support extraordinary events in an environment changed by COVID-19.
3. What opportunities has ICC Sydney created to engage with the MICE community in 2020?
We are proud to have reaffirmed our commitment to the local business events community during the pandemic. This has been achieved through the provision of the venue and team members’ time to support a range of initiatives and both virtual and hybrid events such as the MEALIVE 2019 Awards, the Association Forum Events Summit, Exhibition and Event Association of Australasia (EEAA) Annual General Meeting, PCMA’s Convening Asia Pacific: The Global Recovery Forum and more.
We’re also working closely with the Business Events Council of Australia (BECA) and Australian Chamber of Commerce & Industry’s Tourism Restart Taskforce alongside EEAA and Meeting & Events Australia (MEA) and other industry bodies to keep our sectors recovery front of mind with decision makers.
ICC Sydney has recently released the Annual Performance Review which showed the venue generated A$510 million in direct expenditure for NSW for the FY 19/20 – this is a phenomenal result – What plans does ICC have for 2021 to continue the success?
ICC Sydney continues to operate under extremely challenging circumstances. While we have introduced industry leading COVID-safe standards to deliver events, I am realistic that a full recovery may be some time away.
4. It is heartening to see what is hopefully the first beginnings of recovery as our schedule of in-person and hybrid events grow. Additionally, we have recently been advised by the NSW Department of Health that ICC Sydney can proceed with hosting public exhibitions subject to one person per 4 square meters of space and no capacity restrictions.
While our industry still faces huge barriers before we can return to business as usual – the biggest of these being capacity limits in states such as NSW and locked interstate and international borders – this announcement is an important next step.
I hope that by the beginning of 2021, we will be starting to see a larger capacity again for the domestic market, followed by the international market, as and when border restrictions ease. There is certainly an emerging desire and well evidenced intent from our client base to get back to hosting in-person meetings.
5. What are three things you’d like the rest of the APAC region to know about ICC Sydney?
Australia’s management of the coronavirus pandemic stands us in good stead for the safe resumption of events nationally, of which we are starting to see the beginnings of recovery. While the return of international events is still some time away, connecting with Asian markets will come first.
The initiatives undertaken and progress that we’ve made at ICC Sydney throughout the pandemic has placed us at the forefront of international business events resurgence. We are very much looking forward to reconnecting with Asia in due course, welcoming back our Asian clients and delegates to events at ICC Sydney.
ICC Sydney is committed to working collaboratively with the industry here in Australia and abroad, so that the significant economic, social and cultural contribution of business events to society continues to be recognized, ensuring a full recovery.