Andrew Hiebl, chief executive officer Association of Australian Convention Bureaux


Last month’s Federal Budget missed a clear opportunity to back Australia’s business events industry by investing in a national convention bid fund.

The bid fund continues to remain a high priority for the business events industry, especially given the latest results of the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) country and city rankings, showing that Australia’s global position has slipped yet again.

The most recent ICCA statistics confirm that Australia has dropped to 16th place in 2016, down from 15th in 2015, with our share of the global market falling to 1.73%. A decade ago, Australia was consistently among the top 10 most popular countries to host major international association conventions.

Australia is now quickly falling behind its regional competitors. Countries such as China (equal 7th), Japan (equal 7th) and Republic of Korea (13th) are currently ranked ahead of Australia by the number of international meetings held, each having access to additional government assistance.

Within the Asia Pacific & Middle East rankings, cities on the move such as Tokyo (6th), Shanghai (8th) and Kuala Lumpur (9th) have edged out Australia’s top performing city, Sydney, in 2016 to 10th by number of events hosted, with Melbourne at 11th.

Convention bureaux play a central role in attracting business events to Australia with the support of industry through the preparation and presentation of bid proposals. However, bidding for international business events has become highly competitive and extremely challenging with the emergence of government bid funds across Asia and the Middle East.

The AACB’s latest forward analysis of international business events lost by convention bureaux has increased to 296 events (January 2017), compared to 235 (July 2016). As a result of this lost business, more than $1 billion in delegate expenditure will now take place in other countries across the next ten years.

Key findings of this analysis suggest that the main reasons for losing international business events relate to Australia being a high cost destination to host an event and superior financial packages offered by competitors.

The AACB has been advocating for a convention bid fund leading up to the 2017/18 federal budget, in partnership with key tourism bodies. Investment in a convention bid fund would secure strategic opportunities that align with national economic priorities by providing modest support to international associations seeking to hold a convention in Australia. Return on investment is guaranteed, as funding would only be granted to successful bids won for Australia.

Countries around the world are using business events as strategic tools to attract trade, investment and global talent. Governments invest in and support the business events sector because they recognise the high yield and long-term benefits stemming from growth in the visitor and knowledge-based economies.

There is enormous scope for growth in the business events industry, and to realise this growth, ongoing investment in international marketing is critical.

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