penny lionWith competition hotter than ever for business events globally, BEA is continuing to undertake a raft of strategies to keep Australia front of mind and secure more business. By Penny Lion

Dreamtime, our signature trade event in which we host incentive travel buyers from around the world every two years, held in Melbourne late last year, has had an incredible response from buyers and our Australian sellers. Seller feedback has been outstanding.

The idea behind Dreamtime is very simple: giving buyers an exceptional experience to show why there is `nothing like Australia’ for business events. For the sellers – and we had a record 69 this year – we need to ensure they get a return for their contribution.  Lead generation is an imperative.  Feedback received to date has been very upbeat. Overall, we’re really pleased with it.

Buyer sentiment, from personal emails that we have received, has been extremely positive with buyers raving about the event.

What we’ve found when you break down the components of Dreamtime, is that they worked. The business sessions on the first day in which buyers and sellers had short meetings with one another in a street-style setting in the MCEC were viewed as very favourable. The setting was different to an ordinary exhibition set-up with picket fences, beautiful trees, foliage and entertainment all within a street-style theme – and it worked incredibly well. Buyers walked in and were welcomed by a   wonderful scene; they had the chance to sit down with the sellers and discuss their business needs in a relaxed setting.  It created a terrific ambience.

We’re always aware how tough it is for industry and forever looking at our pricing models. We did reduce the cost of participation for sellers for Dreamtime 2013. Tourism Australia values the business event sector more than ever before and because of this, we have had additional budget allocated compared to previous years which has allowed us to review our participation fees for the industry.

Food and wine was a major focus of Dreamtime 2013. Tourism Australia is working on a major international push on food and wine this year and we are aiming to use this platform to build awareness of Australia’s offerings in this area.

Our research has found that when people who haven’t been to Australia are asked about our food and wine culture they draw blanks. It also found that when people do travel to Australia and experience our food and wine offering, we rank highly as one of the world’s best.

What we’ve done is begun to share with the world how outstanding it is, and I believe we successfully did that at Dreamtime because food and wine is such an integral part of a business event program.

At Dreamtime we had Guy Grossi hosting the media breakfast, there was a lunch with Shannon Bennet at Vue De Monde, and we had Luke Mangan design the menu for the gala event. In Sydney, we had Kylie Kwong and Clarence Slockee who demonstrated their passion for combining indigenous, native and sustainable ingredients with Australian and Chinese cuisine.

The year ahead

We’re currently going into our last two quarters. At this time we look at where we are to date, making sure we stick to our game plan, and make sure we increase our market share by always trying to improve our offering – taking it from good to great.

In the marketing space we really look at our content. Instead of us just placing brand ads, for example, we examine how we actually share more detailed information with buyers around the world. And the only way we can do that is via a solid content strategy. We look at case studies of great events; we look at digital channels for distribution, whether it’s a smart direct mail campaign, or through to our LinkedIn group (The Professional Network for Business Event Planners), which our research has determined is a strong focus for buyers around the world. The LinkedIn group is about us offering new ideas and positioning Australia. We currently have close to 2000 members since our September launch and we want to encourage Australian industry to join, participate and engage in the group as one voice to our international customers.

We continue to work on delegate boosting for key association events that are taking place in our wonderful convention centres around the country, and how we can work on assisting in this area.

We’re also looking at generating more content on our convention centres – such as their sustainability strategies and their food and wine capabilities, because they are such first-class venues delivering innovative ideas.

Content strategy, delivering detail and inspiration to the buyers, a continued focus on digital, including improving our website, and working with Australian industry to deliver a united message to our markets around the world, are all ongoing for us.

We will be at AIME in 2014 to connect with industry and the international buyers who attend. If you are there, please drop by and say hello at stand 1928.