Executive GM of Events at Tourism Australia, Penny Lion, says we’ve had a bumper last 12 months, and the next year is looking equally as strong.

“The past year has been an incredibly good one for the business events sector, says Ms Lion.

“World economies are doing well and we’re still an incredibly appealing destination.”

Looking at the numbers, they’re extremely positive, with arrivals for business events growing by six per cent to now over one million attendees in the last financial year.

The value of business events has also risen by a healthy five per cent, meaning business events for Australia from international markets is now sitting at $4.75 billion.

You can put that into perspective when you compare it to the value of Chinese leisure travellers which currently sits at $10.4 billion. Australia’s business events market is now the second highest source market.

“Anecdotally, we also keep track in market and we’re getting very strong messages from event planners around the world talking about how often they’re quoting Australia,” Ms Lion adds.

A big highlight of the last financial year has been the introduction of the national bid fund, making $12 million available over the next three years to support bids for new, high-value international incentive, association and exhibition events.

Ms Lion says the bid fund is already doing well. “We’ve had over 50 applications to date and six of them have been converted.”

At the present time she can only name two:

UITP 2021 Global Public Transport Summit
SportAccord World Sport and Business Summit (2019)

When announcements of the other events are made, the value to Australia for these six meetings will be in the vicinity of $60 million.

Another highlight for 2017-8 was Business Events Australia’s signature Dreamtime showcase, held in Brisbane in late 2017.

“It took place in Brisbane only in December and has already resulted in the generation of 105 leads and 31 pieces of business have been confirmed, valued at $27 million,” Ms Lion said.

“We actually got a lead converted at the final night gala dinner. At the time it was 1000 people from China and it actually grew to 4000 people.

“We also got incredible media reach out of Dreamtime. That means that we were able to reach those people who were unable to attend, which also helps us with good messaging for Australia. That’s worth millions of dollars for us.”

Business Events Australia also ran two other events in the past financial year which Ms Lion says were standouts.

The first was an Ultimate Winery Experiences of Australia event in New York. Ultimate Winery Experiences Australia is a hand-selected collection of Australia’s premium wineries offering quality winery experiences based around world-class wines, warm and knowledgeable hospitality and culinary excellence. The NY event focused on the options available for tailor-making incentive and business events using the Ultimate Winery Experiences of Australia partners.

In New Zealand, Ms Lion said Business Events Australia traditionally does a business events showcase each year.

“This past one we focused on showcasing major events that are held in Australia because business event customers from New Zealand often like to attend major events from which they can then hang off their incentive or conference program.

“We invited 30 incentive planners to this event in Auckland and focused on the Australian Open, the Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour, and the Field of Light at Uluru.”

The show does go on

Ms Lion said Business Events Australia would continue to attend select international trade shows with its partners.

“We’re not changing the tradeshows that we’re currently attending. We did stop exhibiting at some exhibitions a few years ago after discussions with our industry partners because they weren’t getting ROI on their investment. We stopped doing ones that weren’t producing results.

“The IMEX Frankfurt and IMEX America shows continue to get ROI for our industry.

“We have 33 industry attending IMEX America (October 16-18) this year. We continue to attend PAICE [in New Zealand] and IBTM World (November 27-29, Barcelona) as well as a lot of our own events.

“What is also exciting later this year is that we’re also doing a Greater China Showcase that we usually hold in China annually, but this time we’re doing it in Melbourne for the first time. We’ll be bringing approximately 60 corporates and agencies and media to Melbourne for that event from November 26 to 27.”

And despite business being up, Ms Lion said there would be no resting on their laurels for the foreseeable future.

“We know our marketing is working but I always feel that at the start of a new year it’s important to do a review of what we’re doing and how we’re doing it.

“We had an industry advisory panel meeting last week with the CEOs of convention centres attending.

“We had a review of the type of marketing that we are doing, and we discussed Australia’s competitiveness, and asked for their views and advice on what we should be doing. That was very positive.”

Ongoing support

Continuing the tradition of supporting the local industry, Ms Lion said Tourism Australia had no plans to drop any of its sponsorship programs with industry bodies. This includes sponsorship of the Association of Australian Convention Bureaux Staff Scholarship, the EEAA Young Stars Award, and the MEA Mentoring Program.