The 4th World Congress of Optometry (WCO4), scheduled to be held in Melbourne alongside O=MEGA21 next year, has been postponed until 2023.
O=MEGA21, however, will continue as planned for an Australian and regional audience between 2-4 September 2021 at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre.
The World Council of Optometry (WCO), Optical Distributors and Manufacturers Association of Australia (ODMA) and Optometry Victoria South Australia (OV/SA) announced the postponement of WCO4 in a joint statement today due to uncertainty and the economic impact of COVID-19.
Combined, the world congress and O=MEGA21 were expected to generate as much as $12 million for the Victorian economy.
WCO4 will now take place from 8-10 September 2023 in Melbourne with O=MEGA23, without the need for organisers to retender for hosting rights of the global event.
OV/SA president Ms Elise Pocknee-Clem said it was a simple decision for all three boards to delay the WCO4 component of the 2021 program.
“Many private optometrists from overseas have experienced shutdowns, as we have in Australia, and the economic impact of closures may have a flow on effect limiting practitioners’ ability to travel abroad for CPD next year,” she said.
“Also, significant periods of lockdown and inconsistent ‘opening up’ protocols could impact the capacity of attendees to commit to international travel in the short term. This, and the impact on the university and not-for-profit sectors, and the difficulty in predicting the timing for the ‘end’ of the pandemic meant that we needed to act decisively.”
Industry ‘eager’ for events
WCO president Mr Paul Folkesson said the decision was in the best interests of stakeholders.
“Because of the strength of our relationship with ODMA and OV/SA we remain certain that Melbourne is the best place to hold WCO4, and as such there will be no need to retender for the congress,” he said.
“The original Melbourne bid was excellent and all parties have been working together very well in planning for 2021. That momentum will carry us forward to 2023, and we are all very excited to be bringing the WCO Down Under.”
OV/SA CEO Mr Pete Haydon said WCO4 was a hard-won piece of business for Australia, so he was happy it would return in 2023.
“It was a huge undertaking, so I’m pleased we didn’t have to retender. The Melbourne Convention Bureau, who supported the original bid, has agreed to continue funding the event in 2023,” he said.
ODMA chairman Mr Robert Sparkes said optometrists and the ophthalmic optics community had told him they are eager to resume face-to-face buying and learning opportunities.
Given O=MEGA21 is a year away, he said ODMA wanted to provide certainty about the event proceeding, with the welfare of attendees in mind. The event is the largest eyecare and eyewear trade show and conference in the Southern Hemisphere.
“We’re already working with the venue to ensure a really wonderful second iteration of O=MEGA. It has always been our intention to develop the O=MEGA product into a truly regional event for Australia and our near neighbours,” he said.
“Now we have one more opportunity to do that in September 2021 before we open up for the whole world to come and enjoy Australia in 2023.”