December 6, 2022 | By Joyce DiMascio

Melbourne Convention Bureau CEO Julie Swanson says the business events industry has had a tough few years and should be proud of the resilience and innovation it has displayed.

“The value of face-to-face events has been recognised – both in terms of the tourism contribution but also the benefit to the knowledge economy,” she says.

But it’s time for the sector to unite under one industry body that can best deliver on the needs of the industry with a focus on research and advocacy, she says.

She confirmed that talks within the Business Events Council of Australia were reaching a major crossroads with significant meetings being held about the future of the peak body.

Swanson said it was best to leave any specific comment to BECA chair Leo Jago. She did say, however, that the industry needed to be better equipped so that it could tell its story better.

“And to do that we need better research into the benefits of business events to the Australian economy. And that’s tourism benefits. As well as economic, social, trade and investment and knowledge-sharing benefits.

“It’s essential that our industry showcase how many sectors we support. We want the industry to stand tall and be able to showcase what we do so we have a strong business case for investment in our sector,” she said.

Speaking to micenet prior to the recent Victorian election, she said MCB would continue to work with the elected Government, whatever the outcome.

“Our mission is to continue to contribute to the tourism economy and the knowledge economy.

She said MCB had been around for over 50 years and worked under different governments so it would simply continue to do its job.

In terms of changes in key partnerships, Swanson said she would be warmly welcoming the new CEO of Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (MCEC). She said outgoing CEO Peter King had been a strong contributor to MCB over the past 11 years in his capacity as deputy chair of MCB’s board.

She said the incoming MCEC chief executive, Natalie O’Brien AM, was a very successful leader, very well connected and very good at stakeholder relationships.

“We’re looking forward to working with her when she starts in January.”

Swanson said she welcomed the appointment of a woman to the role.

“I’m a passionate advocate for female leaders. That’s very exciting for me. We look forward to continuing our ongoing partnership with the MCEC.

“We’ve been working with MCEC since it was built and in the international markets, we’ve got a great ‘Team Melbourne’ dynamic.

“We’ve always worked well together across all the programs and in managing our overseas offices and international activity and campaign,” she said.

It’s been a big year for Swanson and her team. As she looks forward to the summer holidays, she’s also reflecting with pride on all that has been achieved in 2022.

“We’re just delighted to see the industry recover and it’s recovered so much faster than we thought. We’ve had ups and downs. But, you know, we’ve always stayed focused on the end goal. Which was driving industry recovery.

“We’re proud of the achievements. There has been significant year-on-year growth. And we’re looking forward building on that even further,” says Swanson.