China bounces back for Australia

Brisbane (pictured) will host a 1,000-strong incentive group next April

Business Event Australia has confirmed a number of incentive travel groups from China soon after the latter bid farewell to restricted travel, with at least three to take place this year.

The three confirmed events would have an average of 200 to 500 attendees, but the biggest win at this point is a 1,000-pax Nu Skin Enterprises incentive event to Brisbane in April 2024.

Brisbane (pictured) will host a 1,000-strong incentive group next April

Robin Mack, head of Business Events Australia, told TTGmice that more wins would materialise, as some projects are currently being worked on.

“Overall, there have been positive developments out of China, and activities are coming back,” Mack said.

Mack noted that Australia’s destination brand is “really strong in China”, and that has resulted in a wave of event enquiries as soon as travel restrictions were lifted.

To ensure Australia remains top of mind, Business Events Australia extended its global campaign, There’s Nothing Like Australia, to China on February 1 this year. The campaign, which sought to showcase “the Australian personality, landscape, our welcoming people, and wide range of business events facilities”, was first announced at AIME 2022.

“We have trans-created our campaign content for China to make sure we get that Australian personality and nuances through,” said Mack, who added that it was “easy and quick” for Business Events Australia to “switch on” stronger marketing initiatives in China as its teams have “stayed present and active the whole time with trade media, agent partners and customers”.

Business Events Australia is working to “push trade partners and travellers to new places”, and some Chinese groups are keen to explore Australian destinations they have never been to.

“But even if people are returning to cities they have been to previously, we have plenty of new things to show them. So much has changed in Melbourne, while in Brisbane we have the Queen’s Wharf, a new entertainment precinct. Such developments are replicated across Australia,” he added.

When asked if Australia would see a return of mega-sized incentive groups from China soon, Mack said: “We used to get 5,000-plus-pax incentive travel groups from China pre-Covid, but I don’t think these mega ones are in the pipeline right now. However, with our bid fund programme stretching out to 2028, I know there are some bids in play that will be bigger (than the 1,000-pax movement confirmed for Brisbane).

While these mega rewards may not be on the immediate horizon, Australia’s visitor economy can still benefit from the Chinese travellers’ big spending habits. Business Events Australia’s 2022 Business Events Consumer Demand Report indicated that 80 per cent of respondents from China plan to increase their budget for incentive programmes abroad in the next 12 months.

China was Australia’s second biggest spending business events market pre-pandemic although its arrival numbers placed it in the third spot after New Zealand and the US.

Looking ahead, Mack acknowledged that the speed of market recovery would depend on air capacity.

“For China, we are now at 32 per cent of seats in the system compared to where we were in 2019. China’s civil authority believes that capacity will be back to 80 per cent by end of this year. We certainly hope this trajectory is in place for Australia,” he said.

Australia has currently recovered 74 per cent of its pre-pandemic international air capacity, and will hit 85 per cent by June.

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