At Meetings and Events Australia’s Industry Leaders breakfast held at the ICC Sydney on 28 November 2019 it was all positive news for the business events sector, according to MEA CEO Robyn Johnson.
The event delivered an update from Austrade on the Tourism 2030 Strategy and Penny Lion, Executive General Manager Events, Tourism Australia, reported that in its first year to 1 May 2019 the Tourism Australia’s Bid Fund had successfully converted 28 international bid wins representing $306million in economic impact and that a further 115 event applications are currently in the play that would deliver an additional $566 million in economic value.
Lynne Ashpole, Assistant General Manager, Policy and Coordination at Austrade and Austrade’s Chief Economist, Heather Cotching updated the audience on the new industry strategy that will succeed the current Tourism 2020 Strategy replacing “tourism” with the term “visitor economy” and emphasising that the business events sector has a strong case for increased prominence in this realignment.
Austrade reaffirmed the importance of the visitor economy to Australia as one of our highest performing sectors, with a growth rate of 5.8 percent in 2018.However, Austrade noted that performance measurements and targets needed to be expanded from simple numbers and broken down into specific sectors. A set of indicators and framework is still at the concept stage and is yet to receive ministerial support. “This would provide an opportunity for the events industry to be more clearly identified as a key sector worthy of its own government-endorsed targets”, commented Ms Johnson.
ICC Sydney managing director and Business Events Council of Australia Deputy Chair, Geoff Donaghy, reminded attendees that BECA not only introduced the term business events, which has a growing international uptake, it has also argued to move “beyond tourism” to more correctly encompass the whole visitor economy. BECA supports the proposed change to visitor economy as do all the Australian state and territory governments, most of which have already taken up its usage.
Mr Donaghy reminded the audience that BECA successfully lobbied Tourism Australia to introduce targets for business events in the 2020 strategy. The target has been easily met, and the overall tourism revenue figure is well on the way to reaching its ‘stretch target’ of $140 billion by the end of next year.
“A broader set of performance measurements should play well for business events”, added Ms Johnson, “The benefits of business events ripple well beyond visitor numbers and spend, flowing into other areas such as trade, exports, investment and education”.
A new 2030 Strategy will be launched in January 2021. It will require a whole-of-government approach for implementation given the importance of the visitor economy to the economy. This is important for business events which spans many different government portfolios, a fact of which organisers would be only too aware when looking for government support for specific events.
A major theme of the 2030 Strategy is likely to be regional dispersal, very much a focus of government at the moment. Another ongoing issue is the labour and skills shortage which Austrade’s Lynne Ashpole noted had been raised in the 2020 Strategy but had not yet been adequately addressed.
Ms Johnson said she concurs, pointing to the considerable ongoing work MEA is doing in this area through its research into the skills shortages across the Australian event industry workforce.
More information on the development of the 2030 Strategy will be published in the December issue of MEA Matters, to be circulated shortly.