December 7, 2022 | By Graeme Kemlo

When Melbourne conceived the Victorian Major Events Company (VMEC) in 1991, it said everything about how serious the city is about the business of sport. This was not just a vehicle to harness the economic benefits of our obsession as spectators, it was a call to action for interstate and international visitors to understand what all the fuss was about.

The VMEC famously snatched the Formula 1 Grand Prix from Adelaide, based in part on a friendship between F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone and former Liberal Party Treasurer, the late Ron Walker who headed up VMEC.

It remained an apolitical body across successive flavours of government, remembering that former Labor Premier, Joan Kirner is credited with coming up with the idea.

In 2016, the functions of the VMEC were absorbed into Visit Victoria – arguably a less inspiring name – but those functions continue to deliver the significant economic returns that make it one of the key drivers of our economy.

The latest projections for Melbourne’s next major event, the Australian Open tennis, have attracted the attention of New York-based market research firm, Neilson, who have chronicled America’s television viewing habits since the 1930s.

Neilson have run the tape over Melbourne’s fortnight-long Grand Slam in January 2022 and have concluded that it boosted state coffers by $267.3 million. To put it slightly differently, the event created the equivalent of 1,650 full-time jobs, generated 270,000 hotel room nights and visitors spent an average of $259 daily – 24 per cent higher than the last non-pandemic impacted event in 2020. Neilson estimate the Australian Open has generated $2.71 billion for Melbourne over the past decade.

In January 2022, this major Melbourne event was watched by a global television audience totalling 746 million broadcast hours across 226 territories – that’s up 20 per cent on 2021.

So, even a pandemic-impacted major event draws a crowd, as Neilson’s research says the past two years generated $405.3 million, attracting more than 500,000 fans courtside in Melbourne, while Ash Barty’s home country win saw a record 4.261 million Aussies glued to the box for her final victory.

Tournament director of the Australian Open Craig Tilley described the Australian Open as “the biggest sports and entertainment event in the world in January”, adding that it takes Melbourne and Victoria to the world, providing a global platform for exposure. Tilley says it was particularly important over the past two years in giving a major boost to the hard hit hospitality and tourism sector.

Is there really any doubt that the corporate boxes at Melbourne Park will again be in strong demand for incentive reward and corporate networking next month?