ICC Sydney sets sights on pre-Covid figures

INTERNATIONAL events are on the way back for a showpiece Australian venue with attendances expected to reach pre-Covid levels – but uncertainty remains as to when groups from China will make a return.

Management at ICC Sydney expect to host about 600 events during the 2022 calendar year with a recent conference and an expo both aimed at global audiences having already been held.

Geoff Donaghy

Geoff Donaghy, chief executive of the Darling Harbour venue, said the efforts of staff and clients in hosting hybrid and virtual formats through the height of the pandemic enabled the venue to deliver another 600 events over the past two years.

A breakdown of the audience figures as Covid lockdowns were implemented across the world showed the venue made the right decision in promoting virtual events, Donaghy told MIX.

ICC Sydney figures show that of the 600 events held through the two pandemic years beginning in March 2020, 382 were classified as in-person, 97 hybrid and 121 virtual. There were 662,000 in-person attendees and at least 200,000 online.

“Through our continual engagement with clients and the industry, we were confident that the Australian market would bounce back once the operating conditions allowed in 2022, which is what we’ve experienced already this year,” Donaghy said.

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“The international market has returned slightly earlier than expected with our first international events underway this month with the rest of the year and 2023 looking strong.”

The 20th International Conference on Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering held over five days earlier this month brought a total of 1,300 delegates including 600 from overseas.

ICC Sydney also welcomed back the Indo Pacific International Maritime Exposition with attendances at the three-day event expected to match the pre-Covid figure of 20,000. Delegates included industry, government, defence, scientific and naval chiefs from 40 countries.      

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Among the first in-person meetings to return as authorities in Australia lifted Covid restrictions were conferences at the city level followed by national, said Donaghy, adding that international business events were next on the list. The venue, however, did not “expect to see anything out of mainland China for some time, but we’re watching closely”.

China is seeing a surge in Covid cases on the back of the Omicron wave with travel to and from the country heavily restricted and harsh lockdown measures imposed in Shanghai.

The confidence that ICC Sydney’s attendances will reach pre-Covid levels comes as venue representative prepare to attend IMEX Frankfurt at the end of the month. Among the new products buyers at the exhibition can expect are Connect Outdoors and Connect Hub.

Connect Outdoors is delivered in partnership with Divine Events to provide meeting options using the venue’s open spaces with views of Darling Harbour and the business district’s skyline. Connect Hub extends the hybrid-event skills the ICC team honed during the lockdown with specialised support for onsite presenters, use of the dedicated media studio, a video-edit suite and digital signage among other solutions.

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