August 19, 2021 | By Joyce DiMascio | Image above: Robin Mack
The new Head of Business Events Australia, Robin Mack, has been in the role for less than two months, but talking to him, you would think he’s been heading the area for years.
He exudes confidence and warmth and has an insider’s knowledge of the importance of business events having worked side-by-side with the outgoing head, Penny Lion and her team over the past eight years.
He’s now totally ensconced in his new role which combines his past responsibilities as Tourism Australia’s Executive General Manager of Commercial with the new responsibilities of his expanded role overseeing business events for the national tourism agency. There are now 60 people in his team in Australia and overseas.
Until now, the leisure market trade shows, Corroboree and Australian Tourism Exchange were two important business events that he personally had a stake in. He was the “internal client” for these historic gatherings of buyers and sellers of Australia.
He knows first-hand that by bringing together buyers and sellers through trade events, the community of advocates for the destination is cemented through the experience and meeting the operators.
So, he’s taken to his expanded brief of promoting Australia as a business events destination to both the domestic and international markets, just like a duck to water.
Mack’s fascination with Australia began a long time ago. He was born and educated in the United Kingdom and first came to Australia as a backpacker on the Working Holiday Maker scheme 30 years ago. He worked and travelled around this beautiful country cementing his schoolboy passion for both travel and his adopted country.
He studied Tourism Management at London Metropolitan University and has been working in travel since he was 16 – his first job was as a travel agent while he was still at university. You get the picture – a love of travel and destinations run deeply within him.
He is charming, eloquent and there is a glorious ease in his communication style. As his role involves interaction with lots of industry partners and buyers, this is a most fitting quality. He is a great ambassador and spokesperson.
In recasting the structure of Business Events Australia, the marketing functions now report through to Chief Marketing Officer, Susan Coghill, a highly experience marketer.
In many ways, this structure is a return to the model that was in place before the formation of Business Events Australia around 2009 when the industry lobbied with ferocity for a separate unit.
But times have changed and so have the recognition of the importance of business events to the Australian economy. And importantly, there is stronger Tourism Australia senior executive and Board support for business events. Under Phillipa Harrison, John O’Sullivan and Penny Lion, the commitment to Business Events Australia was cemented. And for this our industry should be grateful.
Mack’s excitement about his expanded brief leaps out of the Zoom screen. His passion and energy are clear.
His strengths are his commercial acumen and expertise in strategy, distribution and partnerships. Apart from working at Tourism Australia, he has also worked at Qantas.
“Continuing to support the industry is our top priority,” he says.
The team will continue to focus on the newer domestic programs brought about by the pandemic, in addition to the traditional and core international trade work.
These are in marketing, distribution and partnerships. But what is also a focus is maintaining the awareness of Australia and the trade relationships. This is to ensure Australia is ready to welcome events back when international borders reopen.
Domestic market support which kicked off in 2020 was an essential response to the impacts of COVID-19 and international border closures, he says. But international trade, marketing and bid support have continued throughout.
“Our traditional brief has been international and that will continue. We must be ready for when the borders reopen and that continues to be an important area of focus,” he says.
In relation to the organisation’s international footprint, he says there has been some “right sizing” of the team in the United States and China, but programs continue in all markets.
Mack says one of the most successful initiatives has been the Business Events Bid Fund Program which is designed to help secure high-value international business events.
According to Tourism Australia, as of August 5, 2021, there have been 202 applications for event bids. Of these, 45 events worth $367 million have been secured. Twenty-nine have been announced and seven events have already been held.
Recent wins include the 2023 World Conference in Ecological Restoration, which will be hosted in Darwin, and the International Congress of Neuromuscular Diseases (ICNMF) 2024 in Perth.
Earlier this year, Tourism Australia announced a further commitment to the Business Events Bid Fund Program with an extra $3 million to cover new pledges for bids secured over the 12 months through FY21/22.
This year, the internationally focussed Advance Program will concentrate on tailored and strategic partnerships with Australian industry who are actively leading the bidding for international business events.
Last financial year, theprogram delivered 34 international projects with 26 industry partners. Initiatives included event promotions and delegate boosting, asset creation, virtual reality, marketing collateral and media buys. All important tools to add weight to Australia’s reach.
Tourism Australia says these partnerships will keep Australia front of mind and ensure Australia remains in consideration for international business events decision-makers. It will also help drive the conversion of new international business events. And that’s the essence of Business Events Australia’s raison d’etre.
Another important scheme is the Business Events Boost Program, part of the broader recovery strategy. It supports marketing and distribution initiatives that have the potential to influence decision-makers of existing domestic business events or to convert new business.
Tourism Australia announced an additional $1 million in funding for the program to continue to provide Australia’s business events industry with the support that will help win domestic business events across FY21/22.
This financial year, 64 partnerships across a variety of projects are being supported. This includes asset creation, event promotion and delegate boosting, marketing campaigns, educational trips and client showcases, digital projects and promotion of industry events.
Mack is beaming with delight about his new role and the investment in these programs.
“I’m feeling incredibly lucky and very excited. There are no downsides to taking on the role. In many ways I have lived this role vicariously as I’ve worked so closely with Penny and the business events team.”
Mack’s love of Australia and his role are so clear.
“I came here 30 years ago and am still in awe of the destination and all that it offers – food and wine, the natural wonders, the coastlines and the welcoming nature of Australians.”
And he is certain from his own experience that “when we get people here on famils and to trade events, you know they leave as advocates for the country and for having business events here”.