July 7, 2021 | By Gerardine Donough-Tan

Exhibitors from Australia and New Zealand received an encouraging response at the inaugural IBTM Wired virtual show last week, amid COVID-19 infections spreading in some Australian states, Tourism Australia restructuring its business events division and Wellington containing new virus cases.

Business Events Australia held 40 online appointments with planners from Asia, UK, Europe, USA and Latin America. Tourism New Zealand went hybrid, as the first day had a physical component co-located with SMF (Singapore MICE Forum), which its local representative attended in person.

Business Events Australia was joined by Business Events Sydney, Melbourne Convention Bureau and Saxton Speakers in the virtual exhibition which comprised videos, documents and optional real-time video meetings.

“Trade shows form an important part of Tourism Australia’s broader recovery strategy in helping to keep Australia front of mind while most international borders remain closed. By participating in IBTM Wired, our team could meet with many planners and answer their questions on Australia’s future reopening and world-class business events offering,” said Tourism Australia’s Managing Director, Phillipa Harrison.

“What’s clear from these appointments is that the desire for returning to face-to-face events is high, along with Australia’s desirability as a business events destination, with many considering hosting their 2022 events and beyond in our country as soon as they are able to do so,” she added.

Throughout the pandemic, BESydney’s global client engagement team has participated in virtual, hybrid and in-person events. Kristian Nicholls, BESydney’s Executive General Manager of Bidding, said, “While nothing beats in-person meetings, the transition to high-quality virtual or hybrid shows has provided the opportunity to maintain strong client relationships wherever they are in the world.”

The international team enjoyed a good appointment schedule, reporting high pent-up demand for travel to Australia. But clients from all markets are keen for a timeline or roadmap to when international borders will re-open so they can start planning again.

“The show has been great to touch base with clients across the US, Europe and Asia Pacific. At the moment, many are still smaller association, corporate and incentive events with a handful of larger associations looking at bigger conferences in the longer term,” said Nicholls.

New Zealand had a very positive response from incentive and conference organisers, noted Leonie Ashford, Business Events Manager at Tourism New Zealand (TNZ), who coordinated the participation of representatives from Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington.

“The last 12 to 15 months have been challenging for people all over the world. We are looking forward to welcoming events and groups to our shores when international borders are open. It’s great to have new conference venues getting ready to open in Christchurch in 2021, Wellington (2023) and Auckland (2024). The range of hotels and activities available is growing all the time,” said Ashford.

Edward Kwek, TNZ Trade Manager for Business Events, based in Singapore, attended SMF and Day One of IBTM Wired in person, followed by online appointments. He presented New Zealand’s incentive products to corporates and incentive agents from various countries, including the Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, India, Dubai, Hungary, France and Australia.

“Buyers, especially corporate decision-makers, mentioned how well New Zealand has handled the pandemic. The country has risen to top-choice destination for both incentive organisers and delegates,” said Kwek.

Irette Ferreira, Manager of Business Events Wellington, found the show to be a good opportunity to connect with new international prospects currently considering New Zealand for a future event, with some tangible bid opportunities.

“The 30-minute meetings meant we had enough time to get to know the client a bit, form an understanding of their event and chat about how Wellington could support them in achieving their or their client’s objectives as a host city,” she said.

On the buyer side, Singapore outbound travel agency Dynasty Travel has clients such as insurance companies already planning to travel in 2022 onwards. Its Director of Marketing Communications Alicia Seah said, “New Zealand and Australia are popular with MICE groups. Travellers are confident they have proper hygiene protocols in place. With accelerated vaccination, we foresee the governments may provide concessions for fully vaccinated travellers. When there are no additional costs for mandatory quarantine and COVID-19 tests, then travel will recover soon.”