January 25, 2022 | By Bronwen Largier

With the draft visitor economy strategy – Thrive 2030 – released by the Federal Tourism Minister Dan Tehan for comment in late 2021, the Business Events Council of Australia (BECA) has called for the strategy to expand its ambition beyond visitor spend and visitor economy jobs.

Although the visitor economy ecosystem and spend covers business travel, business events and education, which made up 42 percent of the $166 billion spend in 2019, the draft strategy focuses primarily on the visitor experience, the visitor economy workforce and helping create better business practices and sustainability for visitor economy businesses.

In the challenge and opportunities section, the strategy makes no mention of the trade and investment, research collaboration, diplomacy and knowledge sector possibilities the visitor economy could capitalise on, particularly through business events but also through education.

“This is a critical once-in-a-decade opportunity to get the foundations and strategic direction right,” said BECA Secretary, Andrew Hiebl.

“Given the major disruption that the visitor economy and business events industry has endured over the last two years due to Australia’s response to the global coronavirus pandemic, the next long-term strategy holds great responsibility.

“THRIVE 2030 must bring together an industry that has been hardest hit and inspire with a strategic vision that will drive our success through the decade ahead. It must provide a future focus and direction that the industry can rally behind and align its efforts. It must excite the nation!”

The business events advocacy body laments that the visitor economy, despite being Australia’s fourth largest exporter by spend in 2019, has not received the same attention and recognition afforded to primary industry.

BECA believes a whole-of-government approach – interdepartmental and cross-portfolio – would supercharge the visitor economy, beyond what the draft strategy has set out.

BECA has highlighted the value of business events in delivering consumers, talent, business and investment for Australia through attracting global talent and facilitating knowledge transfer, encouraging trade and foreign investment, catalysing industry growth, promoting research collaboration, nurturing innovation, boosting productivity and as an avenue of cultural exchange and diplomacy.

“THRIVE 2030 must be designed in a way that gives the Australian Government reason to invest in the visitor economy and should be positioned as the centrepiece of Australia’s economic diplomacy and regional prosperity agenda,” said Hiebl.

BECA has made this case as its response to the draft visitor economy strategy.