Can you briefly introduce yourself to the readers of Boardroom?
Recently, my role at Tourism Australia expanded to become Executive General Manager of Commercial & Business Events Australia. I am excited by the opportunity to have a greater focus on the business events sector and I look forward to working with the team to showcase Australia’s award-winning convention centres located in the heart of our cities across the country, along with our extraordinary people who are delivering world first innovations and of course our unique landscape which offers the perfect backdrop for any future event.
My passion for Australia began a long time ago. I was born and educated in the United Kingdom and first came to Australia as a backpacker on the Working Holiday Maker scheme 25 years ago, where I spent a year working and travelling around this beautiful country. It really gave me a tremendous insight into the country, its people and its tourism and hospitality experiences.
I fell in love with Australia instantly and I am truly fortunate to be in a job promoting something I am so incredibly passionate about. And what excites me most is that we really deliver as a destination – when people come to Australia, we hear time and time again that we exceed their expectations.
What is, according to you, the importance of business events for a destination like Australia?
Business Events are a critical part of Australia’s visitor economy and play a key role in generating tourism activity, trade, investment, and employment opportunities.
Prior to the pandemic, the business events sector was a strong performing sector for Australia with 950,000 visitors, spending A$4.02 billion for the year to 31 March 2020.
But beyond this, we also understand that the legacy of business events, which is often hard to measure, is invaluable. For example, in 2019, our Business Events Australia’s Bid Fund Program supported the SportAccord World Sport and Business Summit on the Gold Coast. The event was attended by 1,700 delegates from the world’s leading sporting federations, associations and businesses from more than 80 nations including the highest ever number of International Olympic Committee members. The event helped raise the country’s profile on the world stage for future sporting events including the recent 2032 Olympics win for Brisbane, which is estimated to have an economic and social benefit of A$8.1 billion for Queensland and $17.6 billion for Australia.
We also know Australia is seen as a highly desirable business events destination that has a reputation for delivering events that exceed expectations. This sentiment is supported by our recent international research, the Business Events Consumer Demand Project, which highlighted that 8 in 10 association decision-makers rate Australia as an appealing events destination with excellent business events facilities, clean cities, good infrastructure and an appealing climate.
In addition to this, 79 per cent of association decision makers claim they are likely to visit Australia for an event in the next two years – which is great to see and really highlights the continued opportunities for the future as soon as international events are able to resume. I know Australia’s business events industry is looking forward to welcoming association delegates back to our shores soon.
Boardroom’s readers are international associations exclusively: how do you stay connected to them in these challenging times?
It is important that Australia remains front of mind and in the consideration set for association planners. That’s why throughout the global COVID-19 pandemic we have stayed connected with business events planners through a range of activity including in-person, hybrid and virtual engagement. On a regular basis we have held Customer Advisory Panels – where we bring together small groups of our key customers in the UK, Europe and USA to discuss the state of their market, the needs of clients and what we can do to better to support business events coming to Australia.
And we will continue engaging with customers throughout the coming year, including at IMEX America where we will have an in-person presence at the show.
We’ve also continued to engage customers through targeted marketing activity, with the latest instalment of the Australia Innovates video series being a key initiative where we’ve profiled Australians pursuing world firsts across several knowledge sectors to really demonstrate first-hand Australia’s standing as a world-leading association meeting destination where delegates can experience innovation first hand.
What’s your strategic plan to attract them to your shores when – hopefully – we’re done with COVID-19?
We are working hard behind the scenes on our reopening strategy and a suite of recovery projects to ensure Australia is optimally positioned to welcome delegates back to Australia for business events.
The insights and findings from the Business Events Consumer Demand Project and our Customer Advisory Panels will help to guide our strategy in preparation for when international travel starts again.
In the meantime, we continue to drive future demand through our content-marketing and distribution activities, with a line-up of innovative creative projects and customer engagement initiatives being delivered this financial year – including an additional three episodes of the Australia Innovates video series.
The Business Events Bid Fund Program, which received an additional A$3 million in funding to cover new pledges and bids for an additional 12 months throughout 2021-22, continues to drive conversion for international business events. As of 8 September 2021, 46 events have been won for the Business Events Bid Fund Program worth A$369 million.
Recent wins include the 2023 World Conference in Ecological Restoration, which will take part in Darwin and the International Congress on Neuromuscular Diseases (ICNMF) 2024, held in Perth.
In addition to the wins through the Bid Fund Program, we continue to have new leads coming in from our key international markets, which suggests that Australia’s desirability as a business events destination still remains.
We know it’s important that we stay front of mind and connected with our valued business events planners, and we can’t wait to welcome them back to Australia.