June 4, 2021 | By Joyce DiMascio

A packed room heard from colleagues representing organisers, venues and suppliers as well as international representatives of the exhibition industry on Wednesday as the Exhibition and Event Association of Australasia (EEAA) convened a hybrid event to celebrate Global Exhibitions Day.

The Global Association of the Exhibition Industry (UFI) established Global Exhibitions Day in 2016 as an advocacy campaign to promote the economic might and social impacts of business events to governments around the world.

That mission could never be more important than now as the industry tries to rebuild in Australian and globally.

And while there were no politicians in attendance at the event at ICC Sydney this week, the representatives of peak bodies that engage with governments were strongly represented including Board Members and Councillors of the Business Events Council of Australia (BECA), the Association of Australian Convention Bureaux and the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Geoff Donaghy, CEO of ICC Sydney and Vice Chair of BECA said that the business events sector would be developing a vision for the industry and contributing to the government’s 2030 plans for the visitor economy.

“There is a big industry round-table with Tourism Australia tomorrow and with all the associations and key stakeholders,” he said.

“The business events sector will input to the work to reimagine the visitor economy which is being overseen by Martin Ferguson.”

Donaghy said momentum, confidence and trust were building in industry and this was generating employment and financial flow-on to the economy.

He acknowledged the setbacks being experienced by Melbourne and sent the industry’s best wishes to colleagues in Victoria.

At the event, HSBC economist Paul Bloxham outlined the economic forecast predictions for the global and Australian economies.

Bloxham is a master at simplifying economics and delivered an engaging overview of what Australia could expect. He said the global economic recovery was being led by the US and China.

On Australia’s appetite for reopening international borders, Bloxham indicated that Australia would have “heavily constrained borders for some time”.

He also proposed that there would be enduring behavioural change in the recovery from the pandemic and indicated digitalisation will continue to feed productivity growth and there would be an expectation that employees can work from home.

Overall he said that the constrained international borders and reduced immigration would affect labour supply and demand for goods and services. On wages growth, he said it was unlikely that wages would boom, despite constraints on labour supply.

“Firms have had a big shock through COVID and will want to keep wages low.”

Speakers from across the industry spoke of the highs and lows being experienced as events restart and run – or have to be cancelled.

The enduring message was that the industry does want to return to face-to-face events but also  that “hybrid is here to stay”. Monetising the digital and hybrid delivery remains an area to be explored.

Cooperation, collaboration and “working this out together” were the sentiments expressed by many people at the event who were grateful for the opportunity to see colleagues and reconnect and share their experiences of recovery.

The events was generously supported by ICC Sydney, LUP, Orlando Photography and the Colman Group.

Image: HSBC economist Paul Bloxham speaks at the event at ICC Sydney this week | Photo: Orlando Photography