September 8, 2021 | By Joyce DiMascio

The pandemic has taken down one of the most globally recognised names associated with the Australian business events sector, Info Salons.

Parent company Freeman is no longer prepared to maintain the cost of running the Australian operation and will close Info Salon’s Sydney headquarters at the end of October.

Other Info Salons offices around the world will remain open.

micenet believes around 11 staff will lose their jobs in Sydney, including some of the longest serving members of the company.

The registration and technology company that pioneered event registration software and data capture way before data was seen as an asset was acquired by major US experience agency Freeman in 2018.

The news demonstrates the inevitable impact of the protracted lockdowns and other restrictions imposed on the events industry.

Freeman is yet to make a formal statement but began advising its staff, major clients and stakeholders last Friday.

In Australia, Info Salons clients include Informa, Reed Exhibitions, Specialised Events and Diversified Communications. All operate large-scale trade and consumer events across Australia.

Even though she stepped back from the CEO role 18 months ago, former owner Jo-Anne Kelleway’s name is synonymous with Info Salons.

In the late 80s, she was a minor shareholder in the business which operated in Europe. Kelleway bought it out in 1990 – her Australian partners were Glenys and Andrew Holland.

Info Salons, and in particular the highly respected and event tech pioneer Kelleway, gave Australia great credibility in the international marketplace. Although Kelleway will be retained as the global ambassador for Freeman, the closure of the Sydney headquarters is a blow to the business events industry. It demonstrates the harsh reality of 18 months of business interruption.

Many of the major shows for which Info Salons was the registration company have been unable to run events or have postponed them, in some cases for two consecutive years.

Info Salons operates premises in the Surry Hills in Sydney’s inner city. It is believed that the company’s lease was up for renegotiation later this year and may have been a further catalyst for Freeman’s decision.

Ultimately for major international companies with investments in Australia it’s a numbers and market share game. Pre-COVID, Australia represented 13 percent of Info Salons global portfolio. With the decline of events due to lockdowns and border closures, that share has plummeted.

When Freeman aquired Info Salons in April 2018, the company said: “Freeman is expanding its comprehensive event management offerings to help mitigate a pain point in the show planning process. The company will benefit from Info Salons’ nearly 30 years of experience in the industry and its successful event technology solutions which aim to improve online and on-site registration processes and unlock valuable attendee data and sales leads for show organizers. Going forward, Info Salons applications and tools will be fully integrated into the digital solutions offered by Freeman”.

While Info Salons will continue to operate in its key markets of China, the Middle East, South East Asia and the US, the closure of its historic home in Sydney is a regrettable milestone. A sad day in a sorry chapter in Australia’s COVID-impacted business events history.

Kelleway is one of Australia’s most prolific, widely respected and connected business leaders around the world. Info Salons reflected all these attributes. Through her intrepid, brave and enterprising leadership it showed that Australian businesses can lead global best practice.

Info Salons is currently led by two Managing Directors. Steven Gibson, Managing Director of South East Asia and Australia and Wilbert Heijmans, Managing Director for Info Dubai, United Arab Emirates

The industry sources contacted by micenet are in shock at the news.