Tacking into the wind
The end of the financial year is in sight and FY20/21 has been like no other. In fact, for the last 15 months the industry has faced the toughest conditions on record. No-one could have possibly predicted the disruption that COVID would have on the global visitor economy, and in turn, the need it thrust upon all of us to revisit our business and financial models as we develop a roadmap to recovery.
Personally, the last 15 months have given me an opportunity to lead in a positive and impactful way and help transform our organisation for success and sustainability. I keep pushing myself and my team to think about how we use this inflection point to reimagine our potential together – to not just build back better but to build back best. BAU simply isn’t an option.
The need for adaptation has been widely reported over the past year. As Danish neuroscientist Balder Onarheim puts it, “The one who is thinking differently from the rest has a better chance of survival. For most people, it’s actually about knowing when to help push your brain out of the normal way of dealing with things.” Now certainly seems the right time. The pandemic has given every country time to rethink its priorities and we need a bold, well planned and strategic approach to re-assert our nation’s value proposition globally and cement our place in the world.
To this end, we’ve been focussed on our post-crisis recovery strategy and business plan to enhance our organisational performance and sustainability, to better identify, attract and deliver business events, and to build the business brand and awareness of Sydney and NSW.
This approach is already seeing some great results. Year to date we’ve secured 10 international and domestic bid wins for Sydney with an estimated return upwards of $46m in direct expenditure to the NSW economy. We currently have 91 events secured through to 2026 ($513m direct expenditure) across key sectors including health, financial services, and technology. And on top of these, we also have an exemplary 70% of meetings impacted by COVID-19 successfully rescheduled into future years. We’ve also set our eyes on the world’s most significant economic, trade and development gatherings that align to NSW’s growth sectors and can drive the NSW and national agenda.
Internally, we embarked on a digital transformation and move to an agile way of working, bringing people, processes, connectivity and technology together to find the most appropriate and effective way of working. We’ve reimagined the whole organisation as a network of high-performing teams, each going after clear business outcomes with more frequent prioritisation and resource allocation and it’s allowing us to be nimble and adapt to the evolving environment that we face. According to McKinsey, successful agile transformations typically deliver around 30 percent gains in efficiency, customer satisfaction, employee engagement, and operational performance, making the organisation five to 10 times faster and turbocharging innovation. We’re seeing immediate benefits and I’m excited for the future.
Externally, with ongoing travel restrictions, it was clear that we needed to adjust our focus and, whilst maintaining our core business in securing global meetings for Sydney, we’ve lent our bidding expertise to the domestic market. In October we launched the It’s got to be Sydney campaign, articulating a singular brand voice for Sydney to the business visitor, and driving business events buyers to suppliers via a two-way market platform we developed. In the first two campaign phases alone, the campaign reach hit close to 5 million across key decision-maker and event planner audiences. We then helped the NSW Government to launch and deliver a Kickstart 2021 Sydney Business Events Fund comprising $4 million in support for business events, conferences and exhibitions across Greater Sydney, Wollongong and Newcastle, and providing a vital boost to business confidence for our industry.
Change has been the one constant for our industry, and COVID-19 has been a central catalyst. I’m proud of the tenacity and agility of the BESydney team in navigating this challenging course and embracing the transformation that we have made and continue to build upon. The domestic and international bidding environments are going to be incredibly competitive as markets reopen and we’re focused on forging greater industry, community and government alignment to drive destination competitiveness and brand and build our organisation, industry and city back best.