Head of Business Events Australia, Penny Lion, provides readers with a snapshot of the organisation’s latest activity, observations and successes.

We recently had our biggest number of stand partners at this year’s IMEX America (Las Vegas, October 2014) – our largest of any show – with 25 attendees, which was brilliant. A positive that it was a mix of operators: bureaux, centres and venues, DMCs, and hotels. For us this is brilliant because we provide a platform – the Australia stand – and to then have a variety of product certainly helps in showcasing the breadth of experiences and opportunities available in Australia was just terrific.

We are waiting for the official survey that we do with participants to come through, however, anecdotally we have had very good feedback. The talk of leads that they received has been high.

The market overall out of the U.S. is just incredibly positive at the moment. We’re hearing about events with budgets nearing those of the 1980s and 1990s doing test runs of the event from point of origin in the U.S. and doing an entire dry run of the event before the actual event takes place. Those stories are music to our ears. The U.S. market is definitely returning.

The entire stand this year hosted 353 individual appointments with buyers and then there was also 12 group appointments which amounted to time with an additional 135 buyers.

Following IMEX America we attended EIBTM [November, Barcelona] with five stand partners. This was another good show and remains an important one for us.

IMEX does seem to be gaining traction as a show that offers a better return. I believe that our industry feel that they qualify the buyers better, but EIBTM is still an important show for us, giving us the opportunity to continue with our brand awareness and gather additional market intel.

New website

Back at home we continue to assess our marketing assets, and our website is the call to action for the majority of our activity around the world. Led by Tourism Australia’s marketing division, they will be rolling out a new version of

Tourism Australia’s website in early 2015. Six to eight weeks after that the Business Events Australia website will follow.

This is a huge project and an extremely exciting one. What we found when we first developed our website – three years ago now – we always kept the end buyer in mind. Although the content remains current and useable, it’s fascinating in this digital age how quickly everything has changed. What we will offer on this updated website will provide information on all of Australia’s greatest assets that people can use for research or preparing pitch documents for their clients and customers.

At the present time we’re undertaking a strategic review on business events [within Tourism Australia]. Tourism Australia’s managing director, John O’Sullivan, being new to the role, really wants to look at what we are all doing to achieve our Tourism 2020 goals and to continue to add value to what the industry is doing.

We’ve seen over the last few years the business event spend has grown six per cent per annum but the short term results of late have been a little weaker. In view of that and in view of the heightened competitiveness of the sector, TA is going to re-examine its approach to business events and make sure that our strategy and resourcing is as effective as possible.

We’ll present the findings and recommendations to the board in December.

On reflection

Having recently had a four-year anniversary as head of business events here I have reflected on then and now, and recall how Australia has been such a leader in this space.

When I first joined Tourism Australia we had a very different brand campaign. We recognised that it was much smarter to leverage off the consumer campaign – There’s Nothing Like Australia. We were the first destination to do a bespoke business event ad campaign that showed an event in action; we were so proud to deliver that.

When I look at what the competitors are doing now and how competition has increased because so many have realised how high yield the business event market is, many are now doing bespoke business event campaigns. If you look at three or four of them you can see how close their campaigns are to the one we launched when I started.

When you see that it means you have to be smarter and a step ahead and very targeted with everything you do; you have to work harder to convert the right business.

Along with our industry partners we are continuing to do this and more as we head into 2015.