By Joyce DiMascio

On the eve of International Women’s Day we shine the light on Kelly Maynard who has been at the forefront of building partnerships to promote Australia as a BE destination.

Ms Maynard has a fabulous and tough job. She knows the business events sector inside out.

And over the past 12 months, that knowledge has been focussed on keeping Australia on the radar of international buyers so that when Australia’s borders reopen, we can welcome back lucrative international meetings and incentive visitors.

Like everyone else, Ms Maynard and her colleagues at Business Events Australia (BEA), the specialist unit within Tourism Australia (TA), have had to refocus and adapt their programs.

As BEA’s head of distribution development and partnerships, she’s had a key role keeping Australia’s international presence strong, while at the same time delivering new initiatives for the domestic market.

Australia’s competitiveness as a business events destination is always under pressure. It’s the nature of the market. But Australia works harder and smarter than a lot of the cashed-up destinations especially in the Asia Pacific region.

Ms Maynard is at the epicentre of working with the Australian industry to deliver trade engagement and B2B marketing of Australia as a business events destination.

Driving “consideration” of Australia is what it’s all about for Ms Maynard and the BEA team who work under Tourism Australia’s executive general manager, events, Penny Lion.

It’s a small, tight team. They work hard and their output is enormous when you consider the multitude of programs they deliver and the number of partnerships they oversee.

She says one of the strongest things to have emerged from Covid-19 is that the industry has never been more united.

“We’ve never been more united as a BE industry – and working together has been a standout strength,” she says.

In a business that thrives on strong B2B relationships, this has been critical. But over the past year, TA was compelled to change focus and deliver its programs differently, she says.

The move into supporting the domestic business events sector with the Event Here This Year campaign, launched in mid-February, represents a major additional priority.

First launched as a campaign to boost event business for the Australian industry after the 2019/20 summer fires, Event Here This Year has been adapted and rolled out again to support the recovery of the business events industry from the impacts of the pandemic.

The plan is to keep this activity going to June 30 this year across traditional media, out of home advertising, digital and social media channels. In addition, there is ongoing content and PR activity that Ms Maynard says is a great outlet for the industry’s stories and news. Alongside marketing campaign activity, there is also the Business Events Boost Program, which supports industry-led marketing and distribution projects seeking to encourage a restart to business events across Australia.
But ultimately, all eyes are on when Australia can kickstart the lucrative international incentive and associations market. This is BEA’s bread and butter.

“The hardest thing about the job has been the uncertainty – and that’s why it’s more important than ever for the industry to work together,” Ms Maynard says.

“We need to make sure Australia remains “front and centre”. It’s the industry’s job to do the bidding for specific events and our job to do the marketing.”

Despite everything, the good news is that the pipeline for events continues to be strong, with Australia winning new pieces of international business and new leads and enquiries especially over recent months. This is confirmed by veteran agencies like ID Events Australia which is still very active, particularly in the US market.

Ms Maynard says Australia is both “aspirational and inspirational” and in the traditional incentive market, Australia performs strongly and will continue to do so.

Throughout the pandemic, TA’s research has tracked what the domestic corporate market is thinking in terms of restarting events. The fourth phase of the research will be published in the coming weeks.

Our handling of the pandemic has further strengthened our appeal and reputation as safe place to meet.

Asked what may be different in the future, Ms Maynard says it is likely corporate groups will be smaller as companies manage risks.

Ms Maynard says what she loves most about her job is that it is a “relationships business” and that she really enjoys spending time with industry and international customers.

“I’m passionate about Australia and our people,” she says.

Ms Maynard has been had an enduring presence on the business events circuit – she’s regarded highly and seen as a straight shooter, practical, collaborative and focussed entirely on the endgame – supporting trade through partnerships that will yield more business events visitors from around the world.

She’s proud of the leadership role BEA has played especially in this period of great need.

Resilience and relationships have been key, she says.

Vaccines rollouts, vaccine passports, reopening of borders, resumption of international flights – these are the subjects to be resolved next. And you can bet that when these things are sorted, Ms Maynard, like the rest of us, will be so relieved.