October 10, 2022 | By Bronwen Largier

Founder of Tourism Portfolio Donna Kessler – also co-founder of industry shows Get Global and Get Local with Gary Bender – is celebrating 20 years of operations this month after setting up her representation business a year after the September 11 terrorist attacks in the USA in 2001 shocked the world and shook the travel industry.

As long-time industry members will know all too well, the last 20 years have featured many bumps in the road for those involved in the visitor economy – and for the global economy more broadly.

During Tourism Portfolio’s first two decades, on of Australia’s major airlines, Ansett, collapsed, the global financial crisis put the brakes on the meetings and incentives industry in the late 2000s and now the business events industry is just emerging from its biggest disruption yet – the COVID-19 pandemic, which shut down global travel for the best part of two years and had the majority of the global meetings business at a standstill in 2020 and 2021. The SARS, bird flu and swine flu outbreaks, also in the last 20 years, pale in comparison.

“Anyone who owns a business will tell you there are plenty of highs and there can also be plenty of lows which often arise out of things you never expected,” says Kessler.

“The last few years have been quite humbling. Like many of my event colleagues I had to pivot to keep my doors open. For me this included working in a call centre to assist with the tracing and tracking of COVID, and managing COVID vaccination bookings.

“It felt good to play a part in helping the country get through the crisis.

“COVID-19 has forced us all to look at our businesses differently and redefine how we engage and collaborate.”

The successes for Tourism Portfolio have included two Meetings & Events Australia awards for Kessler for Sales and Marketing Person of the Year, founding industry trade shows, the acclaimed Get Global and more recently, Get Local, with Gary Bender, managing director of World Corporate Travel, and starting the Meetings on the Green golf day for the business events industry with publisher of micenet, Helen Batt-Rawden.

One of the simple successes of the business has been retaining the first Tourism Portfolio client, the Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre (GCCEC), through to the present day.

“What remains constant is my passion for what I do and now, with new business partner Sharon Levingston, who brings a new set of skills to Tourism Portfolio, I am excited for what the future holds,” said Kessler.

“Together Sharon and I are developing new business ideas and look forward to sharing these with the industry very soon.

“Here’s cheers to another 20 incredible years!”