Launching the inaugural Business Events Week in Melbourne this week Federal Tourism Minister, Martin Ferguson, threw his weight behind the event, saying Australia was rapidly gaining a reputation of knowing how to run events.

“When it comes to events we mean business,” Mr Ferguson said. He went further, declaring Melbourne had the country’s best conference centre and praising “the leadership of successive Victorian governments of all persuasions in taking business events seriously.”

But he did sound a warning that ongoing infrastructure development to support business events was critical for Australia given the pace of Asian development, citing “stiff competition from Singapore”.

This comment was not lost on MCEC CEO Peter King who is hoping the Victorian state budget will provide for an announced expansion of the centre with 12,500 square metres of exhibition space needed to prevent him turning away business.  The MCEC expansion was announced on the eve of the 2010 election by the then Victorian Labour government, but has not been confirmed by the Baillieu Liberal government.

Mr Ferguson said business events were responsible for bringing one in every seven visitors to Australia last year, an increase of 8 per cent over 2011.  These delegates spent $2.6 billion in 2012, up 12 per cent, and the business events sector contributed $13 billion to Australia’s tourism revenue.

He also announced that Tourism Australia’s largest trade event, Dreamtime, would be staged in Melbourne in December 2013 – “an opportunity for the business events industry to participate in a weeklong showcase to 125 international decision makers from the business events sector”.

Melbourne Lord Mayor, Robert Doyle, himself a former state politician, responded to Minister Ferguson saying “it is great to have a Federal Minister who ‘gets’ the business of conventions”.  Mr Ferguson has been a Shadow Minister for Tourism since 2002 and Tourism Minister since 2007.

Business Events Week was centred around AIME 2013 and comprised 50 events including MCEC’s Open Space, a ticketed public plenary event featuring business leaders including AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou, Cisco VP Les Williamson, VECCI CEO Mark Stone, AusBiotech COO Glenn Cross, and MCEC’s Peter King.

It also saw the annual ICCA Forum for Young Professionals and the AIME CEO Summit discussing emerging trends and issues facing the industry. The week concluded on March 1 with the trade expo of one of Melbourne’s major biennial events – the Australian International Airshow and Aerospace & Defence Exposition which draws 180,000 + visitors to Avalon.

Business Events Week is set to become a Melbourne fixture and is already scheduled for a re-run to coincide with AIME 2014 next February 18-19.