June 11, 2021 | By Joyce DiMascio

A lot has changed at Tourism Australia’s biggest travel trade showcase, the Australian Tourism Exchange 2021 (ATE21).

After being cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic, the format for the show’s 41st edition was totally redesigned for a pandemic-era return.

For the first time, ATE is being delivered as a hybrid event and stretched across two weeks, with ATE Live running between June 6 and 9 this week at ICC Sydney and ATE Online kicking off yesterday and running to June 17.

The online appointments are expected to connect 1,200 Australian sellers and international buyers who could not meet face to face in Australia.

In a significant departure from its traditional format, buyer and seller meeting arrangements have been “flipped around”.

At the live event this week, simple desks made of sustainable cardboard replaced booths and custom stands and these were occupied by buyers instead of sellers. The sellers had the opportunity to walk the floor to meet up with buyers for their set appointments schedule.

According to Tourism Australia the buyers are a mix of domestic, inbound based in Australia, Australian-based international buyers and some who flew in from New Zealand.

The agency said the demand for ATE had been extraordinary, and more than 57,000 meetings have been scheduled across ATE Live and ATE Online with 99 percent of buyer diaries being full.

Content Hubs were also introduced at the live event and these operated in three strands: Indigenous, sustainability and business. This content will also be available online in a major investment in the digitalisation of the event.

There are several other new elements at ATE21. ATE Luxe is a new luxury program being trialled for the first time, taking place across both ATE Live and ATE Online. ATE Luxe is a bespoke opportunity for selected buyers and sellers who deliver high-end experiential product tailored to the luxury market.

The Aviation Program is also a new initiative for 2021, designed as an opportunity for airline and airport stakeholders to participate and meet with each other at ATE Live.

Tourism Australia Managing Director, Phillipa Harrison, said it was wonderful to look towards the industry’s future, after one of the most challenging years on record for tourism.

“The tourism industry was one of the hardest hit, first by the impacts of the 2019-20 summer bushfires and then the COVID-19 pandemic, and while we know it will take time for the industry to fully recover, maintaining business connections is critical,” Harrison said.

“Having the opportunity to bring together so many colleagues from the industry, both from within Australia and overseas, to make, maintain and develop invaluable links between Australian tourism operators and the global distribution network at ATE is more important than ever for ensuring Australia remains top of mind.

“While we look forward to the time when we can once again welcome back travellers from all our key markets around the world to experience our beautiful country, we continue to support our tourism operators, who are the lifeblood of our offering, through events such as ATE,” she said.

ATE was opened by the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, Dan Tehan, on Monday and he said he was confident about the future of Australian tourism.

“Our Government is providing record support to these year’s event to ensure our tourism industry is best placed to take advantage of our economic recovery.”

The federal government funded the ATE through the National Bushfire Recovery Fund.

Up to 1,000 people attended the ATE Live Welcome Event at Campbell’s Stores earlier this week.