EVENTS need to be in the spotlight as Australia’s tourism industry continues on its road to recovery after the pandemic, according to Professor Kirsten Holmes from Curtin University’s School of Management and Marketing.
The value of the events sector is “significantly under realised and underappreciated,” she told travelBulletin, “I think that people don’t appreciate that events are a huge draw card for destination. You’ve got to put something on to get the attention”.
Holmes, alongside representatives from Edith Cowan University and Murdoch University, helped host the 33rd Annual Council for Australasian Tourism and Hospitality Education (CAUTHE) conference, which took place in Fremantle, Perth from 07-09 February.
Held face-to-face for the first time since early 2020, the conference attracted twice the number of delegates that were initially expected – a response which Holmes attributed to an “enormous appetite” for in-person events.
“And this is even with a number of travel restrictions still in place,” she said, explaining that universities had stripped back funding for their delegates to travel overseas for conferences in order to cut costs.
“The challenge is, of course, bringing back international delegates…largely because of the high cost of the flights.”
Another key challenge facing the events industry is the ongoing skills shortage, which is something the tourism industry has been struggling with across the board since COVID-19.
“It’s a very attractive place to work, but the work is very patchy,” the Professor acknowledged.
Increased health awareness and vigilance with testing is another element that the events industry now needs to take into consideration.
“If you’re sick, you don’t come in, and how do [events organisers] manage that?” Holmes posited, highlighting the need to factor in the cost of insurance and refunds.
Holmes believes there needs to be more government funding channelled into capacity building, particularly when it comes to venues and spaces, as well as a more strategic approach to events and festivals.
“For example, we’ve got the women’s FIFA World Cup later this year…and that’s going to be played in a number of cities around Australia. And that’s seen as a really important way of kind of attracting that Asian markets, because soccer is so popular in those countries. So events are seen as a really good way of diversifying your market.”
Events like the Soccer World Cup, which will take place during low season in late July and early August after the school holidays, are a “very good way of making use of the destination and attracting people to the destination out of season,” Holmes added.