Discussions at AIME this year highlighted insecurities being felt by some sectors of the business events industry, with commentators believing that future venue expansion plans, poor government planning, and a shortage of skilled labour, could all negatively impact on Australia’s potential to capitalise on the Asian boom.

Chair of the Business Events Council of Australia and chief executive of the Sydney Convention & Exhibition Centre, Ton van Amerongen, said at the Tourism & Transport Forum (TTF) Business Events Industry Dialogue breakfast on day two of AIME that a lack of understanding in the greater community and government could hinder Australia’s chance of capitalising on the Asian boom.

“I’m speaking to the converted [here],” Mr van Amerongen said to the audience of MICE members.

“It’s the lack of understanding [of the community and government] of the enormous potential of business events on society and the economy.”

Further restricting Australia’s global opportunities is the apparent growing skills shortage expressed by Meetings & Events Australia CEO Linda Gaunt at a separate press conference.

Also speaking at the TTF breakfast, CEO of the Melbourne Convention Bureau, Karen Bolinger, created additional debate by commenting that it was challenging to get government support at bid level.

“… to have [government representatives] there with us in market talking to our potential association clients holds some weight when we’re bidding against other destinations who are rolling out their prime ministers and presidents and a big fat cheque to go with it,” Ms Bollinger said.

“And it’s not necessarily always about the cheque; it’s about the fact that the company [association] gets that support.”

Shadow Minister for Tourism and Regional Development, Bob Baldwin, was critical of the current government’s failure to develop new meetings and hospitality infrastructure.
“Based on the government’s own projection of demand, and knowing that hotel investments take a minimum of eight to 10 years, we should now be seeing cranes in the sky right across Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and all our capital cities, and a sense of purpose that we’re well on the way to riding the Chinese New Year Tourism Wave,” Mr Baldwin said.

“That wave is swelling, but we’re not paddling anywhere near fast enough.”
Mr van Amerongen said Australia’s future business event facilities will be insufficient, and will result in continuing to turn away business.

“[The Asian] market is so big that by the time [the boom] happens we will have run out of space,” Mr van Amerongen said.

“All of the convention centres around the country are at capacity, so we as an industry should be very concerned about what’s going to happen in the next 10 years.”
Stay tuned for a full report in the upcoming April/May issue of micenet AUSTRALIA.