NAME: George Merkouris

BUSINESS NAME: Palazzo Versace Gold Coast

POSITION: Senior sales manager

What are you working on right now in anticipation of a return of events?

The health and safety of our guests and staff alike remains our uttermost priority with precautionary measures in place to ensure a safe and opulent return. We remain committed to offering flexible booking options and eagerly await the opportunity to welcome our national business events and guests to the Palace again soon as we continue to offer support to our tourism bodies, such as Destination Gold Coast in the recovery of Australia’s business events industry following COVID-19. Although previously scheduled for commencement later in the year, we brought forward a planned rejuvenation of the hotel. A warm welcome awaits as guests step inside the grand lobby and notice that the signature Versace mosaic, tiles, furniture, fixtures and fittings, have been deep cleaned, steam cleaned, buffed, polished or painted.

What’s one lesson you have learnt during the COVID-19 lockdown period?

The speed in which the COVID-19 pandemic hit the business events industry has changed and continues to change the business landscape as we know it. As quickly as COVID-19 hit, businesses were already reconfiguring, reinventing and adapting to the new ‘norm’. Virtual meetings and conferences became the new hub to exchange information and knowledge.

What do you value more now than you may have pre-COVID-19?

Technology. Enabling a ‘business as usual’ approach, COVID-19 has demonstrated the importance of technology. Virtual meeting programs have become an critical tool for businesses in order to overcome the challenges of COVID-19 whilst travel restrictions remain in place.

How do you think events will change in the future?

One trend capturing the attention of business event organisers is a shift to ‘hybrid conferences’. These business events include a mixture of delegates who attend in person and others who can partake online virtually. Hybrid conferences allow delegates to maintain social distancing whilst also reducing the travelling component providing the opportunity for those nationally or overseas to take part.

Why are events important?

Despite the benefits of virtual meetings and conferences, there is really is no substitute for the effective experience of face-to-face communication. Business event success comes from and is built through, face-to-face interactions and experiences that are difficult to be replaced in the same way using virtual technology. Business events provide a meeting point for delegates to get involved, share ideas, knowledge and be inspired.