By Brad Foster

Attendees at the 2020 Asia Pacific Incentives & Meetings Event in Melbourne in February are no doubt filing leads and recording conversations for when COVID-19 concerns are gone.

Organisers Talk2Media & Events reports there were 10,000 business meetings held across the three-day event – certainly no mean feat considering that hosted buyers from China were unable to attend.

Held from February 17-19, Talk2Media & Events says there were 2500 visitors and 300 exhibitors. Overall registrations saw a 20 per cent uplift.

Just following AIME, Talk2Media & Events CEO, Matt Pearce, said the beginning of 2020 had seen the business events industry faced with many challenges, both locally and abroad, “however the community spirit imbued at AIME 2020 has never been stronger”.

“The feedback from both buyers and exhibitors so far has been incredibly positive and we’re proud to have delivered what we set out to do. Looking forward to 2021, we will continue to improve and elevate the AIME experience yet again.”

Kicking off the three-day event, the Knowledge Exchange connected delegates from all over the world for a day of education and community building, with a welcome by the Victorian Minister for Tourism, Sport and Major Events, Martin Pakula.

Speakers across the day included Holly Ransom, CEO of Emergent, unpacking leadership skills for survival in a hyperconnected world, and Christopher Kai, CEO of The Mathem Group, exploring the power of human connections in business events. This was followed by two days of business on the show floor, focusing on commercial outcomes.

One happy camper at AIME, CEO of Business Events Perth, Gareth Martin said, “AIME is one of our key events of the year and it’s great to meet with national and international buyers to showcase Perth. We’ve been the Perth Convention Bureau for the last 48 years and have recently changed our name to Business Events Perth.  AIME provided the perfect platform to explain how this renaming is part of the bigger story of change for Perth over the past five years and how Western Australia is, more than ever, a leading business event destination.”

New news at AIME 2020

Like good journalists, micenet scribes got around to talk to a range of exhibitors at the show with the following results…

Gladstone glory

The Gladstone Regional Council once again had the opportunity to exhibit at AIME 2020.  Participant Glenda Farrar, business development officer at Gladstone Regional Council, said: “We were proud to showcase the Gladstone region with its contrasting features of industry, nature and the World Heritage Listed Great Barrier Reef. The Gladstone region, as the gateway to the Southern Great Barrier Reef, creates an unlikely, exciting and interesting destination [that] the international buyers [at AIME] found impressive. We presented a story of Gladstone from its giants of industries, the world-renowned Heron and Wilson Islands, the pristine beaches of Agnes Water and the Town of 1770, top dive and snorkeling sites and the natural and rural beauty of the Gladstone’s hinterlands”.

Ms Farrar said it was interesting that many of the hosted buyers they spoke to were looking for alternative destinations to the metros.

“The majority were tired of the same old destinations in metropolitan Australia and were more interested in what regional Australia has to offer.

“While there were quite a few buyer cancellations due to the COVID-19 crisis, in my view, we successfully attracted some international buyers, Australian PCOs and associations to come and visit our region, sample our hospitality, stay at our interesting destinations and take home a variety of incredible experiences.”

Geelong tracking well

Business Events Geelong convention bureau manager, Mark Day, may have missed out on hosting 25 AIME hosted buyers from China when they were unable to attend the show but said at the time of AIME that the region was tracking well despite coronavirus concerns and misinformation about bushfires.

The Victorian Government’s shout out to corporate Australia to hold meetings in regional areas following the summer bushfires has seen phenomenal support, Mr Day said.

“Within the first day of that announcement going out there were 150 organisations that had pledged to hold an event in regional Victoria, particularly in affected regions. Business Events Victoria has been inundated with calls from companies that want to help.”

Those pledges have no doubt been put on hold now, however, they will no doubt be back on the table when the COVID-19 crises comes to an end.

Brisbane bureau merges with Major Events

Before the current crisis and just prior to AIME, Juliet Alabaster learnt she was adding the Major Events division of Brisbane Marketing to her business events team. With the smart new title of general manager of business and major events, Ms Alabaster, said there were definite synergies between the two divisions.

“We were doing a lot in the front end at business events – research, business development, bidding – and a smaller amount in the leveraging aspect, and major events were doing less in the front end and more in the marketing and activation area,” she explained.

“By coming together we’re looking at how we can maximize the talents across the team to do good proactive event bidding and procurement, and then also leveraging the team to do market activation.”

Ms Alabaster rattled off a dozen or more public events that Brisbane Marketing believes can be leveraged within the business event space. Those events are no doubt on hold now but the time will come when the team can achieve what it set out to achieve by combining the two divisions.

ICC Sydney’s next level regional NSW support

Maybe they can’t do a whole lot now but the strategy of taking sustainability and support of regional NSW producers are in place at the ICC Sydney

ICC Sydney CEO Geoff Donaghy told micenet at AIME that the centre deals with more than 130 product suppliers from NSW and can now boast in having 100 per cent of regional NSW wine on its menus.

They have captured some of the stories of these regional suppliers in a series of videos which can be viewed on the ICC Sydney website.

Mr Donaghy was philosophical about the global challenges that were on the horizon during AIME.

“As leaders we have to be looking in the longer term… You can’t predict these things but you can be as agile as possible and ready to respond to them when they occur.”

MCEC stays strong

Who would’ve thought a few short weeks after the AIME exhibition the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre would close because of COVID-19.

Speaking at the AIME media conference, CEO Peter King described the impact of the bushfires in regional Victoria and the outbreak of the coronavirus and its subsequent travel bans were “frustrating for the industry”.

He continued by saying that the dual tragedies demonstrated the significance of business events to the Victorian visitor economy. This became particularly evident with the cancellation of Cisco Live Melbourne, which was set to take place from March 3-6 and attract 8000 high value delegates. The week before AIME, a decision was made by the US corporate office to cancel the event.

“The late cancellation was extremely disappointing as the MCEC, along with the local business events community, invested a huge amount of time into this event,” he said.

“The visitor economy is an enormous economic driver to the city and the state, so we do need to keep reminding our political friends about this and to continue investment in this space.”

Finishing on a more positive note, Mr King turned to the MCEC’s impressive end-of-year results. The venue hosted more than 1200 events last year which attracted just under three million visitors. It exceeded $100 million in turnover, contributing $1.1 billion worth of economic benefit to the state of Victoria.

The sunny coast

CEO of Visit Sunshine Coast (VSC) Simon Latchford was beaming with pride as he relayed details of the region’s most impressive year of business events to date.

“2019 was the best year we’ve ever had, with business and business events up 34.6 per cent,” he said.

“Sunshine Coast ended 2019 as the number one growth region for tourism within the state of Queensland for the first time in our history. We have proven that we can do it and consumers want what we have.

“Events now contribute $70 million to the region. Five years ago, the region delivered a far smaller number of events, which demonstrates how far we’ve come in such a short period of time.

“This has come about as a direct result of the vision of the Sunshine Coast Major Events Board backed by Sunshine Coast Council and from a marketing perspective supported by VSC.”

Mr Latchford continued by outlining some of the region’s recent and upcoming projects, which include a new international runway at Sunshine Coast Airport that was due to be launched in May, and new accommodation options: a five-star Westin, a rebranded Mercure hotel, a $350 million Aria development, glamping-style tents and eco-cabins at Australia Zoo and Sunshine Coast Convention Centre at Novotel, situated minutes from the airport.

Christchurch centre on track

One year after his appointment as general manager of Te Pae Christchurch Convention Centre, Ross Steele was at AIME to provide an update on the venue. Slated to open in October this year, Mr Steele said that the centre is starting to take shape, with the architect’s vision steadily coming to life.

“There are 44,000 tiles around the building now. The administration block is almost complete and ready for the team to move in,”he said.

At the time of AIME, 55 events had been confirmed for the venue, with another 120 in the pipeline.

Mr Steele and general manager of destination and attraction at ChristchurchNZ, Loren Heaphy, also used the occasion to announce Christchurch’s first ever business events campaign: Business Events Christchurch. Spearheaded by Tourism New Zealand, ChristchurchNZ and Te Pae Christchurch Convention Centre, the campaign has been established to put the city on the map as a world-class destination for business events.

Ms Heaphy said the campaign has been announced at an exciting time for Christchurch. In addition to the opening of the convention centre this October, developers have announced plans to open three to four hotels in the Te Pae precinct, and the city has embarked on the goal of being carbon neutral by 2045.

Christchurch International Airport also announced daily direct flights between Christchurch and Los Angeles, although they will obviously be on hold now.

Planning for AIME 2021 is already happening, with the event pencilled in for February 22-24. Visit www.aime.com.au for updates.

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