ICC Sydney looks to the future as convention centres prepare for the worst

Like every venue across Australia, International Convention Centre (ICC) Sydney has had to deal with an almost total collapse of demand following social measures by the government to slow down the coronavirus.

ICC Sydney CEO Geoff Donaghy described it as an “unprecedented situation” that is having “a catastrophic impact on businesses, people and livelihoods”.

“However, amongst all the uncertainty there is one certainty; at some point this will end,” he said.

“When it does, we have a responsibility to our clients, visitors, employees and communities to be ready and emerge once again as a healthy and thriving industry. So, while we deal with the situation at hand we also have one foot in the future.”

To ensure the centre can spring into action when the time comes, ICC Sydney has held onto its fulltime employees by redeploying them to other tasks “with the objective of trying to ensure everyone has a job here at ICC Sydney”.

“It is with great sadness that this has not been possible for our casual team,” he said.

“Rostering casual team members requires events to be taking place. At this point in time we do not know when this will resume as normal. In lieu of this we are doing what we can to ensure these casual team members have access support, providing counselling services and communicating updates on the situation whenever we can.”

ICC Sydney CEO Geoff Donaghy.

Donaghy conceded that it is “very unlikely any events of scale will go ahead in the immediate future” but said the venue has put into place audio visual services to enable clients to continue running events and connecting with their audiences through online technologies.

“This offering includes live or recorded web streaming, remote presentation, video conferencing and a broadcast studio,” he said.

“These tools have already been used by one of our key city associations, the Committee for Sydney, and we’ll continue to offer this to our industry and client base during this challenging global climate.”

In the meantime, Donaghy said the focus is on the future.

“We can’t underestimate the impact that this most serious combination of a pandemic and economic downturn that we have seen will have on our industry,” he said.

“But what is as equally as serious during this time is ensuring we keep a strong focus on the future, undertaking planning and ensuring our recovery readiness. Our industry, and ICC Sydney’s role within it, will be at the forefront of our local and national economic recovery – and we’ll ensure we are ready from the moment it begins.”

ICC Sydney has set up new spaces for virtual events.

To date, only Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre and Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre have temporarily closed their doors, with convention centres in Perth, Brisbane, Adelaide and Darwin all operating under heavily reduced conditions for the time being. Cairns Convention Centre was scheduled to close from May to October for its expansion redevelopment prior to the coronavirus pandemic.

MCEC chief executive Peter King said the safety of their employees, customers and visitors was their number one priority from the outset.

“Our people are what matter most to us, and we’ve offered some immediate financial relief for all casual and permanent employees affected by the closure, while we work to respond to these challenging times in the long term,” he said.

Peter Savoff, general manager at Darwin Convention Centre, said “we are suffering economically along with the rest of the country”.

“Naturally, this will affect supplier relationships, but we are a small, tight-knit community in the NT and local businesses will continue to support each other wherever possible,” he said.

Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre (BCEC) said it was “a challenging time for all of us”.

“The safety and welfare of our guests, clients and team members and their families has always been of paramount importance and remains our top priority,” BCEC stated.

“We have been working closely with all clients of upcoming events for a number of weeks now to help find solutions and assist in any way we are able.”