It’s been a busy two months for the Business Events Australia team. Penny Lion fills readers in on recent activity and future plans.

By Penny Lion, Head of Business Events Australia

Firstly, I am pleased to report that the USA is looking positive particularly off the back of IMEX America (October 15-17), where we had a record 20 Australian industry participating with us at the show. There have been some good leads as a result, including some larger pieces of business – mostly high-end incentives – which we haven’t seen for quite a few years. For example, we know there’s a supermarket chain planning an incentive with three destinations as part of its program.

The second really positive piece of news is that we’ve had a significant piece of incentive business confirmed out of the UK, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but the UK is really just returning from what has been a long recessionary period. We believe the UK incentive business is starting to look more at long haul destinations, which is good news for Australia.

Since my last report, Air India has commenced direct flights to Australia, with Melbourne presently working on at least three quotations for new business that can benefit from the new services. These pieces of business have been in the pipeline for some time, but now, with direct flight access, they are looking much more promising.

Overall, I think Australia is doing well, however, we know that competition is extremely fierce and business is getting tougher for all in the industry. As such we are working to exceed customer expectations by pushing beyond offering the standard experiences, particularly where we know our buyers are already familiar with the offering. The question now is, what can we do beyond this? How can we include a myriad of new and appealing experiences over and above what everyone is already aware of?

Part of our strategy will be to further promote Australia’s food and wine experiences as part of the business events offering. We know that Australia offers a high quality food and wine experience, however recent research undertaken on behalf of Tourism Australia has found that that there is a real perception gap between people who have visited and those who have not. Only 26 per cent of those who have not been to Australia associate the destination with a ‘good food and wine’ offering but that figure rose to 60 per cent amongst those who have visited. What’s more for those who had previously travelled to Australia, visitors from China, USA, France, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, UK and South Korea, ranked Australia as the No.1 destination for Food and Wine.
Our challenge is to close this perception gap by demonstrating the compelling reasons why they should choose Australia and taste first hand our outstanding food and wine, the culinary creations of our amazing chefs and amazing restaurant experiences largely with the backdrop of a pristine natural environment.

We want to encourage those working in the business events area to get behind this as well. When you think about the quality of food that we deliver at our convention centres; when you think that a group lunch could be eating oysters at Opera Bar under the sails of the Sydney Opera House; or having the best fish and chips you’ve ever tasted on a Perth beach; these are the stories and images that we have to get to market.

The other area that we are pushing is the fact that our high-end boutique accommodation offerings are now so vast. One&Only taking over management at Hayman, qualia on Hamilton, Saffire in Tasmania, Southern Ocean Lodge on Kangaroo Island, and Emirates Wolgan Valley, for example, are helping to lift the entire industry to a new, upmarket clientele. There are many larger incentive groups that have a top tier of very high achievers who are seeking these kinds of venues. They want to give these very special team members something that is high-end and completely luxurious. The fact Australia can offer that in so many unique settings that really sum up the Australian landscape is a positive for us and a fantastic message to get out to overseas buyers.

Maintaining focus will allow the business events industry to continue to perform well in delivering Tourism 2020 – the business events goal of delivering $16 billion worth of business annually by 2020. We are currently at $12.9 billion. The more we talk and communicate and sell the amazing offerings that Australia has, the better for all of us. m