Tourism Australia will make significant changes to its business events operations in Sydney from July 1 in response to the ongoing uncertainty affecting tourism globally.

The decision follows a recent global review of the agency’s business plans ahead of the new financial year and will see Tourism Australia’s Executive General Manager of Events, Penny Lion, leave the organisation.

The changes will see a reorganisation of Tourism Australia’s international, events and business events operations from Thursday.

Tourism Australia Managing Director Phillipa Harrison said the changes to the business reflect the need for reorganisation in response to the ongoing impacts on tourism of the global pandemic.

“The past 18 months have been the most challenging that our industry has ever faced and throughout the crisis we have continued to adapt our business operations to place resources where they are needed most,” Harrison said.

“With international tourism remaining on hold due to ongoing travel restrictions and border closures to manage the spread of COVID-19, Tourism Australia’s recovery plans continue to focus on rebuilding domestic tourism for leisure and business events, whilst also targeting emerging opportunities in markets such as New Zealand.

“To ensure our organisation is well placed to maximise the immediate opportunities to rebuild tourism, whilst also planning for those ahead, we are making some changes to our operations for the approaching financial year,” she said.

Harrison said the departure of Lion was among the most significant changes to the business.

“After more than 10 years with Tourism Australia we are sadly farewelling Penny Lion who has done such a tremendous job heading up both events and business events in our organisation,” Harrison said.

“Penny’s vision combined with strong commercial business acumen has resulted in business events being elevated within Tourism Australia with excellent results. With Penny’s departure, our intention now is to continue with Penny’s vision by integrating business events more across the whole business.

“Penny will continue to assist our business in an advisory capacity for business events which we are extremely pleased about. This will also assist us in further embedding business events within our organisation,” Harrison said.

As a result of the changes, Tourism Australia’s current business events distribution and partnership activities will transition to reporting to Robin Mack, who has been promoted to Executive General Manager – Business Events Australia, in addition to his commercial role on the executive team. Business events marketing will move to the wider marketing team, led by Chief Marketing Officer Susan Coghill. This change will see greater integration of business events across the business, which Lion has always passionately advocated for.

Harrison said Tourism Australia would continue to support the tourism industry through its marketing and trade programs aimed at travellers and the business events sector both in Australia and overseas.

“While it will likely be some time before tourism returns to its pre-COVID levels of international travel, we will continue in our efforts to ensure future demand for Australia’s tourism experiences remains strong and continue driving immediate demand and bookings for domestic travel,” Harrison said.

Lion said the decision to depart the organisation was a difficult one.

“Working at Tourism Australia and working with the business events sector to grow the opportunity for Australia has been such as great honour.

“Australia has a fantastic business events offering and there will no doubt continue to be strong demand to host international meetings, congresses and corporate incentives here in the future once we get beyond the immediate crisis. And the advantage of business events are the long lead times so that the work of Tourism Australia with industry can continue to deliver successful business outcomes in the future,” Lion said.

Lion’s achievements during her time at Tourism Australia have included consolidating Tourism Australia’s approach to marketing Australia as a business event destination internationally through B2B marketing and trade marketing programs; overseeing the implementation of the Business Events Bid Fund Program, Advance Program and Business Events Boost Program; the launch of the Australia Next incentive publication and the Australia Innovates series for the association meetings market.

There will be no change to Tourism Australia’s international business events operations which continue to work at building demand for future event business to Australia.