Q & A with Nicole Walker
How did you feel leaving the comforts of Australia?
Having travelled to Barcelona in November 2021, I felt significantly more confident about international travel and what to expect. There was still a level of anticipation and concern that I hadn’t completed the required documentation within the required timeframes – not to mention the anxious wait for PCR results to be returned to confirm if I would actually be travelling or not!
Was the travel/plane experience any different to pre COVID for an international flight?
You could almost say it was better! There were minimal queues at Sydney International Airport and I almost walked straight through security which was fabulous. The majority of shops within the airport were closed which brought a sombre element to the experience, however the enthusiasm of the staff at the airport and on the plane was electric. Everyone was delighted to be travelling again. The best thing was the plane was only at approximately 30% capacity on the way to Italy, so having a spare seat next to me certainly made it more enjoyable!
Were there extra safety measures in place on arrival in Rome?
I was required to complete the EU Digital Passenger Locator Form (DPLF) prior to departure and also return a negative PCR test. Once this information was uploaded, I received a QR Code for reference. One beneficial part of the process is that the Sydney Airport airline team check the requirements for entry into the country you are travelling and ensure you have all the relevant documentation prior to boarding the plane! On arrival in Rome it was a very smooth process. I showed my QR code and I was out the doors within an hour of landing!
Did the hotel in Rome have any issues with an international visitor from Australia staying, and were there any extra safety precautions or restrictions?
The hotel, like so many other people were delighted to see an Australian in person! There is still a misconception that we are ‘locked in’ and unable to travel so it was great to demonstrate that this was in fact a myth and advise them that our international borders will be opening (in fact – open on 21 February 2022) to all vaccinated travellers was a great news story to share.
On arrival at the hotel I showed my Australian Government International COVID-19 Vaccination Certificate (different to the green one we have in Australia. And the QR code on this certificate doesn’t work with the ‘Green Card’ system mandated in EU countries!) Once they had sighted this certificate I went straight to my room for a much needed sleep.
What was IAPCO2022 about and why did you attend?
IACPO2022 is the Annual Meeting and General Assembly for the International Association for Professional Congress Organisers (IAPCO). The last face to face Annual Meeting was held in February 2020 in Vancouver, Canada. Roslyn McLeod and I were fortunate to attend in 2020. The purpose of the Annual Meeting is to enable the global members to connect and share learnings and insights with the industry and hear from keynote speakers on emerging topics and trends as well as commercial advice and strategic insights.
How many were in attendance face to face as opposed to virtual? What countries couldn’t or didn’t want to attend in person?
Around 120 people registered to attend IAPCO2022 in person and a further 40 logged in online. Given the ever changing landscape there were a number of people who had to convert to virtual at the last minute such as individuals from New Zealand, Singapore and Canada. Additionally, for those who were still not confident to travel, the virtual option provided a way to hear the latest in global industry trends from the comfort and safety of their own homes.
The programme had some interesting key-note sessions. Did you have a particular favourite and why?
Paolo Gallo – Futurist, global expert in Human Capital and ICF certified Executive Coach was the first keynote and informed us about the human capital post pandemic. He asked us these specific questions; What is different this time around, what is coming next, what is the new and unprecedented future of the Global Job Market, how can we re-start, and which style leadership is needed in this new context?
We also had the opportunity to hear from a panel of distinguished industry leaders from AC Forum(Associations & Conference Forum), AIPC (International Association of Convention Centres), IAPCO (International Association Professional Conference Organisers) , ICCA (International Congress and Convention Association) and PCMA (Professional Convention Management Association) to share the changing landscape of Business Events Associations and how collaboration has increased over the past two years to enable greater benefits to the wider industry.
Were you able to contribute to IAPCO2022?
As the only Australian representative at the physical event in Rome, it was great to be able to share our perspective on a number of topics. We participated in ‘Espresso Exchanges’ at the event with short, sharp conversations with smaller groups on key topics affecting our industry. It was valuable to hear of the skills shortages across the industry in all countries and share ideas on what we can all do to make our industry ‘sexy’ again!
What were the biggest outcomes and learnings for yourself, Arinex, clients, and Australia?
Europe has been ‘living more openly with COVID’ for an extended time now so it was reassuring to see how business events have been successfully delivered. Masks are expected and respected, and complimentary RAT and PCR testing at events are commonplace and welcome, especially for international travellers like me who needed one in order to return home. With such an enormous program it was great to duck out at Morning Tea to conduct a PCR test and not miss any of the valuable content.
What we have experienced in Australia is very similar to nearly all other countries, and as such, we were all able to share common experiences and ways to combat them. This has always been a close knit industry prior to the pandemic, and although we haven’t been able to meet in person, this is now the exact reason it is stronger than ever. These difficult times have resulted in supporting one another, knowledge sharing and friendship. It was a really special opportunity to reconnect with friends and the IAPCO family, create new friendships and re-set for the recovery of our wonderful industry and global border reopenings.