January 14, 2022 | By Joyce DiMascio | Photo: Tourism Australia’s Executive General Manager of Commercial and Business Events Australia, Robin Mack | Credit: Tourism Australia

2022 is a critical year for getting the business events sector back on its feet. Everyone wants to get back to face-to-face meetings and events. The interruptions of the past two years have highlighted just how important human interaction is.

Also higher on the priority list than ever is sustainability.

Tourism Australia’s Executive General Manager of Commercial and Business Events Australia, Robin Mack, shared his views on sustainability with micenet.

Q. Sustainability is one of the seven priorities of Tourism Australia – what does this mean? How will it play out?

A. Sustainability is one of our strategic priorities at Tourism Australia. As an organisation, our overarching vision is to make Australia the most desirable and memorable destination on earth. To achieve this, we need to respect and protect the land and culture that is central to our destination appeal.

As Australia’s national tourism organisation, we feel Tourism Australia has an important role to play in championing and elevating the importance and the appeal of sustainable tourism, through advocacy and education.

Our marketing platforms help Australian tourism businesses to better communicate their sustainability success stories, and, by doing so, help encourage others to follow their lead.

Sustainable tourism for us includes protecting and restoring our natural environment and helping to conserve Australia’s natural wonders and cultures so they can be enjoyed today and by future generations.

It also means fostering a profitable industry that delivers employment opportunities and economic benefits to communities that in turn helps improve the tourism experience for our travellers and the quality of life for Australians.

As a result, Tourism Australia created seven key principles that underpin our efforts in sustainability. These are:

  1. We keep our own house in order in living by our employee value – We Do The Right Thing
  2. We honour our First Nations people from whom we have much to learn
  3. We support others in our industry in adopting practices to operate more sustainably, with positive impact on our land, people and culture
  4. We provide a voice for sustainability in our industry that is a voice of advocacy and education
  5. We prioritise doing business with those in our industry who support sustainability
  6. We promote and share tourism stories that inspire sustainability
  7. We partner with like-minded organisations to increase our impact and reach

We incorporate these principles across our activities, including our partnerships. Business Events Australia (BEA) is the founding partner of the Exhibition and Event Association of Australasia (EEAA) Sustainability Program which developed a strategic roadmap and resources to tackle the most significant sustainability issues for the business events sector.

The rollout of the project to the wider business events industry was originally planned for launch in 2020, however due to global COVID-19 pandemic and the impacts to the industry, this was paused.

The project is still progressing, with EEAA and BEA hoping to launch the roadmap and other resources to the wider industry in early 2022.

We also have additional sustainability focused-partnerships being developed for [this] year, including one with the SITE (Society for Incentive Travel Excellence) ANZ Chapter. The partnership will include an activation from renowned TEDx presenter and Friend of Australia, Joost Bakker, at their Incentivise Live event in February 2022.

Beyond partnerships, we also drive awareness about Australia’s sustainable business events offering and Indigenous experiences through our content marketing initiatives such as Australia Next, our incentive magazine for business events planners.

Our Australia Innovates video series has also highlighted several Australians delivering innovative work around sustainability, including the latest episode featuring Sachini De Silva, the co-creator of a sustainable, off-grid solution that provides access to clean water in remote locations. This content is amplified through our international media buy with business events publications in our key markets of USA, UK/Europe, New Zealand, China and South and South East Asia.

We also want to lead by example by ensuring we take a sustainable approach with our own events at Tourism Australia. At the Australian Tourism Exchange (ATE) in 2021, we encouraged delegates to bring their own reusable water bottles to refill at water stations on site – as a result we reduced landfill by 1,258 plastic bottles.

ATE 2021 was held at ICC Sydney | Photo: Tourism Australia

Recyclable cardboard tables were used for appointments – with some delegates even taking theirs home – and young plants that were used for theming were donated to bushfire affected communities on the South Coast of New South Wales. Throughout the event, we also held sessions for industry to learn more about sustainability from leaders in their field.

Sustainability is a global trend for business events and one I believe is here to stay.  So it excites me to see that so many Australian business events products and destinations are really amplifying the great work they are doing around sustainability, ensuring that not only does Australia remain a desirable business events destination, but also to secure a better future for us all.

Q. Who leads the sustainability focus at TA? Are there designated managers or Board Members?

A. Tourism Australia’s Head of Sustainability, Penny Rafferty, leads our sustainability strategy which aims to amplify the stories of Australia’s tourism and business events industry. In addition to this, we have a sustainability and Indigenous working group, comprising of leaders from across the organisation, to ensure as a business we continue to incorporate these practices in our daily activities.

Q. What value are corporate meeting and incentive buyers placing on sustainability?

Market intelligence suggests that sustainability is a growing trend with business events planners as we think about recovery, and we intend to monitor this sentiment in our next round of international research, the Business Events Consumer Demand Project.

However, while it’s an important consideration for business events programs and planning, the current priority for business events planners is the road to recovery, with the resumption of travel and face-to-face events.