Australia ready for the return of international incentives market

Hosted buyers from Asia attend Dreamtime's business meetings in Adelaide

Australia is seeing the incentives industry return as the country works through restoring aviation routes and improving accessibility issues.

Shorter lead times are noted, and while India continues to be a rising source market post-lockdown, there’s been increasing interest from the rest of the region more recently.

Hosted buyers from Asia attend Dreamtime’s business meetings in Adelaide

“The bounce back we’re seeing in the return is strong from Asia,” said Tourism Australia’s Executive General Manager of Commercial & Business Events Australia, Robin Mack.

“We just had some latest results in and interestingly, from the June quarter, China and Indonesia were returning at a faster rate for incentives and business events than the leisure side of tourism,” said Mack.

Mack qualified that the groups were smaller in size and numbers but with the help of Australia’s bid fund programme, larger incentive groups have also been won.

These include NuSkin and Perfect China bringing 3,000 delegates each to Brisbane and Perth respectively in 2024, as well as Amway which is bringing 10,000 delegates to Melbourne in 2025.

Meantime, flights to India have more than tripled since pre-pandemic with three daily flights from Melbourne and Sydney. A dedicated business events team in India is also supporting event planners with visa processing.

Additionally, South Korea now has more routes compared to three years ago, and Singapore is “close”.

“Aviation is key to our success and it’s growing back. Globally we’re now at 88 per cent (to our pre-pandemic levels) but in February or March next year we’ll be at 99 per cent,” said Mack.

Australia’s incentives market is currently at 54 per cent of its pre-COVID business but with China’s borders re-opening more recently, numbers are expected to improve soon.

“We score well for value for money, particularly for incentives and associations, based on the feedback we get from delegates,” said Mack.

Speaking to TTGmice at Dreamtime earlier this month in Adelaide – which marked the return of Tourism Australia’s signature incentives showcase – Mack added that 2023 was perfect timing to bring back the event for the first time after a pandemic hiatus.

“Last financial year we had an Asia mega fam as a prelude, if you like. We wanted Dreamtime to come back as soon as possible after that, to make sure that we could get as many people here as possible from around the world.”

“This event is so important because we have so many new stories to tell and experiences to offer firsthand for incentive planners from around the world. We’ve had unprecedented infrastructure, not just in accommodation but in extensions of art galleries, new incentive products from the Heart Reef pontoon in Queensland to the Jackson Super Yacht in Sydney and that’s replicated around the country,” he added.

Delegates attending Dreamtime gave the showcase in Adelaide plaudits, but said there were still issues to be worked through from their countries.

“The incentive market is picking up very fast in Malaysia with every corporate company now wanting travel for their staff,” said Sedunia Travel Services’ manager from Kuala Lumpur, Esther Ong.

“But at the moment, Malaysians are unable to apply for visas through an agency and without that help, about 20 per cent of qualified incentive winners will probably miss out,” she opined.

Jessica Zhang, executive general manager, marketing and strategic cooperation at China’s Bravolinks Integrated Marketing, said the appetite for incentive travel in China is building, but “would take time” as the two countries sort out flight access, visas and political differences.

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