ICC Sydney gets the green light to host large exhibitions

CEO Geoff Donaghy spoke exclusively with Spice News.

Large-scale exhibitions will return to International Convention Centre Sydney (ICC Sydney), following government advice.

The New South Wales Department of Health has advised the venue is able to proceed with public exhibitions of any size under the current health order, subject to one person per four square metres of space.

Speaking exclusively to Spice News, ICC Sydney CEO Geoff Donaghy said the decision follows several weeks of discussion.

“We’ve been in dialogue with the health department authorities for several weeks now, bringing them up [to speed] on our processes and COVID-safe plans, which are very broad and diverse and draw from our from our global group’s VenueShield documentation,” he said.

“I think what came across to the health department officials is that exhibitions are really well controlled and very well managed environments. Entry points can be controlled, the time that people are together and the distance they’re experiencing within the halls can be very well controlled.”

The approval, however, is only for stand-alone public exhibitions. The rule does not apply to exhibitions that form part of a corporate event, such as conferences, which are still subject to NSW Government capacity limits of 300 person per event.

Donaghy confirmed this is currently being reviewed.

Planning underway

ICC Sydney is working alongside Reed Exhibitions on two major exhibitions, Reed Gift Fairs and Life Instyle, which will go ahead in February 2021 and provide an estimated economic impact of $30 million.

The events will take place in the venue’s Exhibition Centre, which spans 35,000 square metres of floor space.

Donaghy said the centre is also in discussion with the health department for a broader exemption that would allow the venue to host all types of events.

“Getting the exhibitions approval is a great step,” he said.

“We’ll be able to immediately start working with exhibition organisers to start planning those from early next year.

“Each event still has to submit their own COVID-safe plan in conjunction with our venue plan, but we’re very confident that we’ll be seeing a number of exhibitions running next year.”

The exhibition market accounts for approximately one quarter of ICC Sydney’s turnover, which in a typical year can be up to 70 events.

Reed Gift Fair 2020 at ICC Sydney

Reed Exhibitions managing director Brian Thomas said the return of the Reed Gift Fairs and Life Instyle to ICC Sydney in 2021 will be a catalyst for Australia’s COVID-19 recovery.

“We are delighted that Australia’s gift and homewares industry will be one of the first to benefit from exhibitions recommencing at ICC Sydney,” he said.

“The flow on benefits of this are substantial and we hope this update will be the catalyst for the recovery of other industries.”

Rebuilding confidence

The return of exhibitions at ICC Sydney is expected to deliver significant benefits to Sydney, New South Wales and the wider business events supply chain. In a stabilised year, exhibition attendees spend more than $340 million in the local economy.

However, Donaghy said the benefits will go beyond financial impact.

“It’s all about momentum,” he told Spice News.

“What these events will start to do is create the momentum of confidence, to really show that it’s safe to come to events, and safe to come to events at ICC Sydney.

“Another big benefit of this is being able to create some expanded employment for our own team, which is still very much reduced.”

Next ‘big hurdle’

Donaghy said the “next big hurdle” for the centre, and the wider industry, is reopening state borders.

“Exhibitions in their own right can still be viable with Sydney and NSW audiences, but ultimately for us to do significant numbers of national events, we need those state borders to be relaxed and to come down,” he said.

“But that seems to be heading in the right direction, so we’re watching that very closely.”


More reading

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Updated: State-by-state guide to current event restrictions
How Comiskey Group pulled off a COVID-safe event for 4,500 people


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