Karen Bolinger, president Association of Australian Convention Bureaux

Industry research plays a vital role in advocacy and continually improving our performance. Business events is the only sector of the tourism industry that provides a long-term pipeline of confirmed future business, allowing governments, as well as tourism and future industry sectors to plan well in advance and maximise the economic benefits.

The AACB’s latest publication of its Forward Calendar of International Business Events, a vision of convention bureau bid performance from July 2017, is a great example of this work; and as I take up my role as president of the association, I plan to continue and build on the great work that we have already achieved in research-led advocacy and raising the profile of this vital economic driver.

AACB members have worked to attract almost 400 international business events to Australia across the next decade, bringing in the equivalent of 460 Airbus A380s full of international delegates who will go on to spend over $800m on home soil. This outcome is predominantly driven by the strength of our professional bid delivery, financial support put forward by state and local governments, along with the fact that Australia is a safe and desirable destination to hold an event.

International business events attract high yielding visitors, spending, on average, 70% more per day and 21% more over the course of their trip compared to other international visitors (Deloitte Access Economics), therefore are highly sought after.

Although the report shows a 3% growth in the number of international business events secured for the future, we can’t overlook the 7% increase in the number of bids lost. Over 300 events are now set to take place in competing countries, equating to a staggering loss of more than $1b in direct delegate spend.

Key reasons why organisers choose competing destinations are Australia’s geographic isolation from the rest of the world, the cost factors associated with this and competing financial packages offered by other countries.

The timing of the Hon Steven Ciobo’s (Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment) visit to IMEX America in October was important, as Australia’s international rankings continue to drop, falling to 16th in 2016 from the top 10 a decade ago. At IMEX he could see, first hand, the highly competitive nature of our industry and the potential strategic trade and investment opportunities for Australia provided by international business events.

If Australia is to secure even more international business events, strong consideration should be given to the establishment of a dedicated national bid fund, an initiative which other countries now have in place. We are seeking co-investment from the Federal Government to attract these events to Australia, recognising the strategic value of business events in attracting trade, investment and global talent, and the long-term benefits accrued from growth in the visitor and knowledge-based economies.

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