Australia’s Edge: Leading the Way in Business Events

12th March 2024

Traveling to Australia is always a delight, especially during AIME in Melbourne, the premier trade event for the meetings and events industry in the Asia Pacific. On this occasion, Boardroom received an update on why Australia has confirmed its status as a top conference destination. The country’s latest initiatives and advancements indeed underscore its dynamic progress, with leaders focusing on environmental responsibility and forefront innovation.

Words Remi Deve

Australia’s concerted effort to position itself as a top-tier destination for business events is supported by its strategic approach to sustainability, innovation, and industry collaboration. Through hosting events that not only showcase its natural and cultural assets but also its leadership in critical global discussions, Australia has been setting a new standard for business events worldwide.

Sustainability at the Core

In an interview with Boardroom, Robin Mack, Executive General Manager Commercial & Business Events Australia, articulates the significance of sustainability in the industry. “Sustainability is a key priority for us as an organisation,”Mack states, emphasising the integration of sustainability with indigenous culture and accessibility. Australia’s sustainability framework, showcasing initiatives like the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre’s green rating and ICC Sydney’s many initiatives in the area (including the recent RESPECT event), aims to inspire the entire industry towards more sustainable practices.

Echoing this sentiment, Julia Swanson, Chief Executive of the Melbourne Convention Bureau (MCB), highlights the strategic alignment with Victorian priority sectors to drive policy outcomes and progression. Swanson notes, “MCB works strategically with the State Government of Victoria to bid for events that are going to drive policy outcomes and progression for them.” The Asia Pacific Offshore Wind and Green Hydrogen Summit in August 2023 serves as a prime example of this approach, attracting close to 800 delegates and marking Victoria’s leadership in the energy transition.

Fostering Innovation Across Sectors

Australia’s commitment to innovation spans multiple sectors, showcasing its role as a global leader in pioneering developments. 

The recent introduction of Qantas’ Perth to Paris and Rome direct route signifies a leap forward in travel accessibility, making Australia more connected to the global community. Vanessa Hudson, Qantas Group CEO, heralds this development as a testament to Australia’s innovative spirit.

Likewise, the unveiling of Westmead, Sydney’s premier health innovation hub, further positions Australia at the forefront of medical research and healthcare innovation. With four major hospitals, five globally acclaimed medical research institutes, two top universities, and the largest research-intensive pathology service in New South Wales, this hub is attracting global attention, underlining Australia’s capacity to host significant business events in health and medical sectors.

Similarly, Brisbane is known for its vibrant innovation ecosystem, focusing on sectors like technology, health, and clean energy. “The city’s approach to fostering innovation includes support for startups, research collaborations, and major events that bring together industry leaders to drive forward-thinking solutions”, says Lorelle Chittick, General Manager of Tourism, Business and Major Events with BEDA, Brisbane Economic Development Agency.

Southbank Melbourne©Tourism Australia

Strategic Vision for Business Events

In fact, Australia as a whole employs a strategic approach to attract international conferences by leveraging its innovative sectors, world-class facilities, and strong government support, ensuring a compelling destination for global events.

Melbourne’s approach, for instance, is characterised by a deliberate strategy that aligns with Victorian priority sectors. Swanson elaborates, “Our strategy is deliberate with a focus on Victorian priority sectors, and so MCB is helping international business events create their own inaugural events or new events, which align with those priorities.” This strategy is not only about hosting events but also about creating a legacy that can benefit both the associations that choose Melbourne as their host destination and the local communities.

Business Events Bid Fund Program: How Associations Can Benefit From it

The Business Events Bid Fund Program (BFP), managed by Tourism Australia’s Business Events Australia, aims to enhance Australia’s competitiveness in securing new international business events. It offers financial assistance at the crucial bidding stage, supporting bids where Australia competes against international destinations. This program targets business events that bring significant international visitors and economic value to the country, with applications open until June 30, 2024, for events up to December 31, 2029. The BFP’s goal is to make a material difference to event costs in Australia, excluding administrative, logistics, or marketing expenses for international bids.

Meanwhile, Sydney’ strategic vision for business events, as articulated by Lyn Lewis-Smith, CEO of Business Events Sydney (BESydney), emphasises a transformative approach. Under the “Change Starts Here” agenda, BESydney aims to redefine the impact of business events beyond tourism expenditure, focusing on social impacts and the legacy of these gatherings. Lewis-Smith explains, “We want our business events delegates to meet the people, enjoy the place and discover a shared purpose, in Sydney.” This vision is supported by extensive research into the broader value of business events, including their potential for environmental improvement, legislative change, and health advancements among delegates.

Lyn Lewis-Smith emphasizes the role of Sydney as a catalyst for global change, highlighting the city’s unique qualities: “Business events are a powerful platform for tackling and solving the difficult problems in our world through the exchange of knowledge and ideas… BESydney wants to be part of the solution and we know that Sydney offers a unique environment that is welcoming, inclusive, safe, sustainably focused and delivers solutions through innovation.” This approach positions Sydney not just as a venue for business events, but as a partner in driving forward global solutions across various sectors, including Health & Life Science, Technology & Innovation, and Finance & Professional Services, with plans to expand into Science & Engineering and Defence & Aerospace.

Sydney Harbour © Tourism Australia

This diversity spans the entirety of Australia, which Tourism Australia aims to highlight and promote. “We strive to showcase Australia’s rich diversity, from its natural wonders and cultural heritage to the vibrancy of our cities and the knowledge in them,” says Mack. “Our marketing campaigns, such as “There’s Nothing Like Australia,” aim to highlight this diversity, complemented by targeted promotions that spotlight Australia’s strengths in key sectors. Additionally, we leverage significant events, like the upcoming Olympics in Brisbane, as opportunities to demonstrate our capabilities and reinforce our commitment to inclusivity and excellence in the global business events sector.”

The Future Landscape of Business Events in Australia

Looking ahead, Australia’s business events sector is set for significant growth. The country’s dedication to sustainability, combined with its innovative spirit and strategic vision, positions it as a desirable destination for business events on the global stage. “We are proud of Melbourne’s status as the number one sustainable destination in Australia for the annual GDS Index,” Swanson adds, highlighting the importance of sustainability in Melbourne’s events strategy.

As Robin Mack concludes, “The future is bright, with significant wins contributing to the visitor economy. Our bid funnel strategy has proven successful, attracting a diverse range of events. We continue to support associations and incentives, with applications open for events up to 2029. Our collaborative mindset, combined with Australia’s appeal and our commitment to sustainability and innovation, positions us strongly in the global business events industry.”

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