As the centre piece in the $1.5 billion transformation of the Darling Harbour precinct, the ICC Sydney gave fellow convention centre leaders from around the world a first-hand look at how convention centres need to be directly involved in the planning of their city if they are looking to attract key knowledge sectors.
Something that was in the planning for many years prior, through the rationalising of the State’s tourism and events bodies into Destination NSW and the subsequent Visitor Economy Action Plan and Task Force, which were instrumental in shaping the vision of Sydney in an increasingly competitive global events sector, according to Sandra Chipchase, CEO of Destination NSW, who spoke at the conference.
“It was a big call for the government to make to shut down the convention centre for three years and rebuild a new one,” she said.
“It comes back to what do you want to be. We wanted to not only be number one in Australia but also the number one in the Asia Pacific region. We knew this was a golden opportunity to reposition Sydney. It became ‘what does this centre need to be to shape the profile and change the future of the city?’”
Michael Rose, chairman of the Committee of Sydney, also spoke about Sydney’s evolution as a city in terms of its destinational appeal and the way it does business.
“The ICC Sydney in the way that it does things can send signals about the way the city does things,” he said, a theme which was echoed by urbanisation expert Professor Greg Clark from the UK in his keynote session.
“I want to talk about convention centres as part of the eco-system of urban innovation, about how cities host and convene as a key part of how cities evolve into global roles,” he said. “The meetings, convention and exhibition industries create visibility around the specialised edges and capabilities and competences of the city and its economy. The meetings industry adds to the connectivity of the city giving it global reach in playing those global roles. The meetings industry underpins specialisation enabling those cities to convene and host particular industries which demonstrate that eco-system is alive and well.”
Geoff Donaghy, ICC Sydney CEO and outgoing president of AIPC, said Sydney’s planning vision had embraced the role business events play in its broader eco-system.
“There is a great deal of focus now with convention centres about going beyond what is perhaps the traditional role of attracting delegates,” he said.
“The need to be involved and contribute to the planning of the cities they exist in and ICC Sydney has really been at the forefront of that. It’s not just about marketing the centre it’s about marketing the city, and that sense of cohesion and collaboration across all of the organisations in the city has come across very well.”
Newly elected AIPC president Aloysius Arlando said ICC Sydney’s recent experience in the re-invention process aligned perfectly with the challenges faced on a global scale of evolving client expectations and emerging competition in the industry.
“To us, ‘Transformation’ is now an omnipresent process that enables us to respond to constant change, whether in terms of new industry demands; discerning clients or changing international business conditions,” he said. “By bringing together our own experiences with those of international observers who can advise us on broader areas that will impact our ability to advance our business, we can provide members with the best possible insights for use in responding to their current challenges or their own future planning.”