In December 2016, International Convention Centre Sydney (ICC Sydney) opened its doors as Australia’s first fully integrated harbourside convention, exhibition and entertainment venue. It distinguished itself with its spectacular location in one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world, striking purpose-built design, state-of-the-art technology, industry-leading culinary philosophy, and array of flexible features, designed to respond to future demands of the meetings industry, and it has achieved exactly that.

In 2019, ICC Sydney hosted corporate, association and trade events that saw over 1.34 million attendees pass through its doors attending the likes of Pacific 2019, Robocup 2019 and Million Dollar Round Table 2019 (MDRT), with these large scale events all choosing the venue’s world class facilities and stunning location to attract delegates from around the world.

Pacific 2019 broke records in every major metric in the event’s 20-year history with a 27 per cent increase in delegate attendance and 20 per cent increase in exhibitor attendance. 182 delegations from 48 nations enjoyed 48 major conferences, symposia and forums all housed under the roof of the venue. Bringing together international government, defence and academics to explore maritime issues and technology, the event welcomed 21,241 delegates over three days.

Due to the size of the event, ICC Sydney bolstered customer service support by 50 per cent, with extra staff brought on board to meet the daily requirements of the tailored event.

To accommodate the high-ranking officials, the detail put into bespoke menus and culinary options matched that of the security detail with 30 guards and police operating sweeps within the advanced, purpose-built security of the convention centre.

“I commend the team that worked on the highly successful International Maritime Exposition. Without exception, every staff member was wonderful. With their professionalism, work ethic and can-do attitude, we ended our show with accolades from the Chief of Navy that have never been received before,” says Jane Blackett, Head of Event Production, ADMA.

The team members are well versed in delivering tailored requirements for association and exhibition events. The international exhibition of Robocup 2019 included a robotic soccer tournament to promote robotics and AI research. The tournament saw over 2,000 participants and more than 300 teams compete in the international automated game.

“ICC Sydney’s infrastructure and capabilities allowed us to bring this event to Sydney for the very first time, placing our local talent and knowledge on the global stage,” says Professor Claude Sammut, Robocup Chair.

Geoff Donaghy, CEO of ICC Sydney:

 “Exhibitions are an equally important business segment for us and we’ve got a number of major repeat events returning to us annually. The Sydney International Boat Show, which uses all of our exhibition space, open-air event deck and builds a major temporary jetty facility in the adjacent Cockle Bay area to display yachts and super boats, has been hosted at ICC Sydney for the past three consecutive years.”

“We ended our show with accolades from the Chief of Navy that have never been received before”

The convention centre was designed to host a broad range of market segments, from national and international conventions to trade and consumer events, as well as important local events like gala dinners and sales meetings. The venue is also the major downtown entertainment venue for the city, which sees them deliver live concerts, musicals and comedy shows.

ICC Sydney’s third year of operation saw events it hosted deliver significant impact for the economy of New South Wales. According to figures released for 2018/2019, delegates attending the venue generated $896 million in direct expenditure for the state. International and interstate visitors helped generate 73 per cent ($654 million) of the total spending. Furthermore, the venue’s operations and events delivered an economic contribution to New South Wales of $902 million, generating 5,790 full-time equivalent jobs for the local economy and 1.77 million overnight stays.

ICC Sydney has a burgeoning reputation for the highest quality of operation and with both client and delegate satisfaction ratings at 99 per cent, they believe they offer very significant value for money.

“As a landmark venue in the city, we run a wide range of public events from children’s shows and exhibitions to those hosting international artists such as Kylie Minogue, Elton John and Seinfeld. We also support events for charities like the Variety Children’s Charity Annual Christmas Party and the Stand Tall event involving over 6,000 high school students. In 2019, we hosted the inaugural VIVID School, which we’re again hosting this year, bringing together STEM students and budding artists from years nine to twelve from across the state,” says Geoff Donaghy.

“It’s a given that success will attract competition and our industry is immensely competitive, across the globe.

“The most important priority for our team is to maintain the highest possible standards at the highest possible level of consistency, ensuring we’re constantly reviewing and refreshing what we offer to clients across all our market segments.”

Opening and establishing a world class venue does come with challenges. What pleases Geoff Donaghy most is watching the team come together and receive recognition for their extraordinary efforts across Australia and around the world. This is what he finds most gratifying as a CEO in the venue business.

A study from Deloitte Access Economics in 2017 examining Sydney’s innovation and growth potential highlighted ICC Sydney as an essential contributor to change in the city – actively strengthening its local knowledge economy.

Delivered in partnership with the Sydney Business Chamber and University of Technology Sydney (UTS), the ImagineSydney: Create report includes a case study on Australia’s premier convention, exhibition and entertainment precinct.

“In 2018/2019, delegates attending ICC Sydney generated $896 million in direct expenditure for the state”

According to Deloitte Sydney Manager Partner, Dennis Krallis, the venue’s ability to connect the city’s knowledge hubs and attract global thought leaders to the nation’s cultural and economic capital will deliver powerful, long-term benefits.

“Innovation is key to Sydney’s future prosperity and ImagineSydney: Create is focused on recognising and exploring growth opportunities for the decade ahead. Large, established organisations such as ICC Sydney, which use the power of connections to facilitate fresh ideas, are essential to realising our city’s social and economic potential. The convention centre will be central to attracting and driving conversations, research, investment and partnerships across sectors.”

Geoff Donaghy says that the precinct is an important component of the New South Wales Government’s suite of infrastructure projects and, through its role as a centre of creativity, is set to generate $5 billion in economic benefit to New South Wales over the next 25 years.

“As the $1.5 billion centrepiece of the more extensive $3.4 billion rejuvenation of Darling Harbour, the venue connects the city’s financial districts, media and creative, cultural and student hubs. The precinct is also purpose-built to provide the ultimate platform for the world’s leaders and thinkers to meet, collaborate and innovate.”

Geoff Donaghy says that ICC Sydney’s Feeding Your Performance (FYP) philosophy is also delivering a raft of socio-economic benefits across the state.

“The convention centre is driving business growth and economic development for regional communities by partnering with a network of local farmers. Our 2018/2019 results revealed we had invested $12.2 million in direct food and beverage expenditure for regional New South Wales, representing 97 per cent and 92 per cent of our food and wine purchases. In fact, we are committed to procuring 100 per cent of our wine from New South Wales producers.

“Our approach to creating a sustainable, local food and beverage supply chain is an industry-first,” says Geoff Donaghy.

In addition to FYP, ICC Sydney is committed to cultivating a powerful legacy for the events it hosts. The venue’s Legacy Program and the five streams of Generation Next, Innovators and Entrepreneurs, First Australians, Sustainable Events and Creative Industries, provides clients and their delegates opportunities to connect with the local community. These include creating opportunities for young and emerging performers to take to the venue’s global stage, exhibiting artwork during events from First Nations artists and providing opportunities for local startups to pitch their ideas to delegates.

According to the Deloitte Access Economics research, if just ten per cent of the 138,000 ‘non-innovator businesses’ in Sydney made small incremental changes in best practice, process development, management methods and the like, Sydney’s gross regional product could increase by $25 billion.

“We proudly put innovation at the heart of our organisation and hope to be an inspiration for others, as we believe the benefits here are truly great. The future for Sydney is bright, and with ICC Sydney already delivering more than 1,500 events since it opened, we are proud to be fostering continued innovation in the heart of the city,” says Geoff Donaghy.

Geoff Donaghy is CEO of the International Convention Centre Sydney (ICC Sydney); the ASM Global Group Director of Convention Centres for the Asia Pacific, India and the Middle East; the immediate past President of the Brussels-based International Association of Congress Centres; and a member of the executive committee of the Joint Meetings Industry Council. He served as Chairman of the Business Events Council of Australia for five years and has been awarded the Australia Centenary Medal by the Federal Government, the Australian industry’s Outstanding Contribution Award, and the Joint Meeting Industry Council’s Global Power and Profile Award.