Recovery for Australia’s MICE industry moves at a steady clip

  • Heavy investments in large-scale event bids to drive recovery
  • Leisure developments are giving Australia an edge in winning business events
  • Stakeholders cite uneven Covid regulations worldwide and slow airlift recovery as obstacles
Branagh: upwards trajectory in business events choosing Queensland. Photo: Rachel AJ Lee

Since relaxing its pandemic-related rules and border restrictions, Australian states have welcomed an influx of in-person business events and corporate groups, and are busy chalking up future congress and association bid wins.

For now, large-scale events are leading the recovery of international gatherings.

In New South Wales (NSW), in May, the state hosted 55 media from 11 countries for a number of familiarisation programmes as well as the Australian Tourism Exchange 2022, among other massive events, signalling that it is ready to welcome back business events and incentive trips.

To date, Business Events Sydney (BESydney) has secured 98 future business events scheduled to be hosted in NSW between 2022 and 2029, shared Destination NSW’s CEO Steve Cox.

The wins are backed by the multi-million-dollar Business Events Industry Support package rolled out in October 2021, designed to incentivise business event organisers to contract and hold business events in Sydney.

“Complementing this support for business events is our major investment in signature sporting and cultural events such as the 10 World Cups, Vivid Sydney and in 2023, Sydney WorldPride. We will work with BESydney to leverage our investment in sporting and cultural events like these to enhance Sydney and NSW’s appeal for the business event market, and to boost delegate numbers,” Cox elaborated.

In the same vein, Tracey Cinavas-Prosser, CEO of Destination Perth, said the Western Australian city is also leveraging upcoming sporting events, like the pre-season friendly between Manchester United and Aston Villa on July 23 and the year-end cricket test matches, to raise the region’s profile as a business events destination that can handle large-scale events.

Cinavas-Prosser underlined that “leisure and MICE go hand in hand”, and often business and association meetings would also require a fun-packed social pre/post-programme.

Domestic market leverage
When asked how the business events industry survived during the pandemic, Tourism & Events Queensland’s group executive marketing, Michael Branagh, told TTGmice: “Fortunately, the Australian domestic market has really gravitated towards Queensland, and we’ve seen a really strong growth and demand for business events in terms of incentives.”

“Previously, corporations that took their teams to international destinations for events are now more focused on keeping local in the short term. For instance, they could have gone to Thailand or Hawaii for their business summit, but the uncertainty (of travelling) and their low risk tolerance means they are holding their backlog of events in Australia now,” he elaborated.

Domestic activity has helped Queensland’s suppliers improve their products and experiences, and put the state in a prime position to welcome international guests.

Now as Queensland gears up its international marketing efforts, the team is discovering a challenge in selling to an audience that “already knows Queensland and its great beaches”.

For example, the Singapore audience is “very familiar with Queensland”, so the tourism body has to keep reminding them of everything they love about Queensland, as well as present new experiences, products and ways of exploring beyond Brisbane and the Gold Coast.

Aside from India, Singapore is a market Queensland is watching closely, with Branagh indicating there was “very strong interest in business events and incentives” emanating from the city-state.

Call for normality
Despite her optimism for the future, Cinavas-Prosser called for greater consistency in Covid-19 border restrictions across the globe.

“We need the whole world to have confidence that this is not going away (in the near future). We have to learn to adapt like we have to any illness over the years, move on, and return to normal lives,” she opined.

For Cox, recovery is challenged by lacking airlift, something he considers “a crucial element in the rebuilding of international visitation to NSW”.

To speed this along, the NSW government announced a A$60 million (US$40.4 million) Aviation Attraction Fund to accelerate the state’s recovery by providing support to airlines to drive demand and increase capacity to levels prior to Covid-19.

When asked about NSW’s target markets, Cox shared: “Singapore, China, South Korea, India, Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong have traditionally been in the top 10 markets for NSW. We expect these will continue to be core markets over the next 10 years. However, NSW cannot rely solely on traditional markets. Indonesia and Malaysia, currently just outside the top 10, have potential to grow in volume and value.”

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