Finger pointing and recriminations are underway after the sensational collapse of a huge Asia-Pacific technology conference. The APEC Technomart III conference may have attracted as few as 600 delegates instead of the 30,000 promised by its organisers, according to sources. Scheduled to last for five days last week, the event shut its doors after only two and the company that organised it has gone into liquidation.
Left with egg on their faces are governments, private sector sponsors and exhibitors who paid a combined $2 million to help stage what backers billed as the largest and most influential technology event in the southern hemisphere.
An "angry and unhappy" Queensland premier, Peter Beattie, whose government put up $200,000 to help stage the event, last night foreshadowed legal action over its demise. Peter Fisher, chairman of organiser Pac Rim Technomart III, could not be contacted for comment.
Professional conference organisers said they could not remember a disaster of this magnitude and expressed astonishment that moves weren't taken to avert it.
"The registration brochures were only distributed overseas six weeks ago which is lunacy. They should have been sent six months ago," one source claimed.
According to an experienced conference organiser, it should have been obvious at least a month ago that delegate numbers would not meet expectations and the event should have been scaled back at that stage.
Red-faced sponsors include aviation giant Boeing, WorldxChange Communications, a number of universities and Qantas.
WorldxChange CEO and president Chris Bantoft suffered the indignity of having a scheduled conference keynote address cancelled as did Microsoft vice president of research Rick Rashid.
The wreck of the conference, meant to showcase Australian technology and provide links to investors and purchasers, has become a source of international embarrassment for Australia.
Last year, Chinese Taipei successfully mounted a four-day technomart which was claimed to have generated $US100 million in trade contracts.