Australian venues are reinventing their business with digital tools and pivoting their attention towards Asia, believing it will be “the fastest market to come back” when international borders reopen.
Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (MCEC) for example â€“ which remains closed until August 2 â€“ has been using this period to renovate its offering.
“We’re looking at completely new business models, new partnerships and potential new revenue streams, both nationally and internationally,” said MCEC’s chief executive Peter King. “I think it’s a really interesting opportunity because we’ll never get another chance like this to reset our business.”
Over recent weeks, King said staff who “wouldn’t normally get to contribute to these conversations” have been grouped into cross-departmental teams to work through ideas in two-week spurts, completely changing the dynamics of the organisation.
“With no business as usual and the doors closed, we’ve got 100 per cent capacity for innovation and creative thinking and what we’re enjoying so much at the moment is allowing our people to change the rhythm of the way they work and contribute,” King continued.
One of MCEC’s main workstreams to emerge is in the development of offerings that feature elevated virtual and hybrid components to the conference experience. Other areas being enhanced include the reinforcement of partnerships.
“We’re trying to move away from being such a prescriptive, mechanical delivery organisation to becoming a more nimble, creative operation. I think that’s directly in line with the expectations of the way the Asian market works and it’s a big opportunity to partner more closely with our customers to provide a different type of event experience,” he said.
Similar waves are also being seen in Sydney, where a reboot strategy is in the works. BESydneyâ€™s regional director for Asia, Sinead Yeo, said a renewed campaign is planned for the Asian market, which accounts for about half of BESydney’s business.
“Traditionally, our clients have looked for big hero activities when visiting Sydney,” Yeo told TTGmice. “We are now working with our partners and the industry to look at more bespoke experiences that will really appeal, especially to repeat clients that have visited Sydney before.
“We are also looking at more digital tools that we can provide to assist and service our travel industry partners and clients.”
Yeo also said the bureau has been busy keeping communication lines open with priority customers, providing updates and listening for their key motivations and concerns. “We must keep relevant,” said Yeo. “Our new activities include conducting webinars with our markets, (hosting) around 17 webinars to date with close to 600 participants, as well as holding virtual site inspections.”
Industry leaders believe Asia will be first in line when Australia’s international borders reopen, projected for December or January. But pressure is also building for travel bubbles to be created sooner with select Asian countries deemed low risk for Covid-19 cases.
“There’s a reboot strategy for all of our segments and Asia is obviously at the top of the list internationally, said ICC Sydney CEO Geoff Donaghy.
“I think it’s very obvious that airline travel out of Asia will occur well before it does out of the US, for example,” said Donaghy, having just announced ICC Sydney’s EventSafe Operating Framework, which involves a set of protocols in 16 key areas of event management.
“We believe it will create a whole lot more confidence and trust in ICC Sydney as a venue. And part of that will be direct follow up with our Asian contacts who are prepared and ready to run events, probably in the first half of next year,” he said.
King also observed that Australia’s similar timezone with Asia will be a benefit. “That allows us to conduct face-to-face and hybrid or virtual elements attached to these sorts of meetings a lot more easily than trying to do it in North America or in Europe,” he said.
“The challenge is to address confidence in meeting face-to-face which will take a little while to rebuild. But I think the Asian market is likely to be the fastest to come back because the propensity of Asians to get together is very, very strong,” he continued.
King also concluded that Singapore, South Korea and Hong Kong are among markets in the region with the greatest possibilities for the resumption of travel with Australia.