AUSTRALIA: We All Row Together

AUSTRALIAN BOAT RACE: If you want to row your own boat, you’re in the wrong boat!

Listening to the Business Events Sector of Australia leadership at the AIME Leaders Forum, and subsequently in interview, it became abundantly clear why Australia’s leading industry associations have decided to merge. Four bodies – the Business Events Council of Australia (BECA), the Australian Association of Convention Bureaux (AACB), the Events & Exhibitions Association of Australia (EEAA), and the Australian Association of Convention Centres (AACC) have agreed in principle to merge into a single ‘peak body’ with a focus on delivering enhanced financial sustainability of the merged association(s), delivering better services to the 300,000 employees in the sector, advocating more coherently to government, aligning to state and federal sector priorities, and to measuring both the tourism impacts and, especially, the beyond tourism benefits including social and economic outcomes/impacts/legacies that deliver the gross value-added (GVA) return on the bid-funding allocated to the sector by government.

“One voice to government to really get cut-through rather than being fragmented and not listened to,” Lyn Lewis-Smith, CEO BESydney.

A $2mAUD BE Research Fund has already been allocated by the new federal government of Australia which is to be led by the IDEA Group including tourism research figurehead Dr. Leo Jago. “The key thing,” said Andrew Heibl of AACB, “is that the research will be designed and delivered in partnership between industry and government so there can’t be a look at the numbers by government and say we don’t trust the numbers. This will be a real joint effort… get the Kangaroo & Emu stamp on the research so that we are trusted”.

The beyond tourism measurement framework will be a tough nut to crack but much of the leading work in the sector has emerged from Australia, notably by the University of Technology (UTS) in partnership with Business Events Sydney (BES) in the form of case studies, research, and measurement frameworks.

“How we can influence change as a result of the event and measuring it,” said Nicole Walker, managing director of Arinex PTE, “will give us the data to show value back to the government so that we can continue to maximise [bid] funding for the industry.” And fellow PCO, Emma Bowyer of ICMS Australasia, added; “We have to be really clever about the questions we’re asking as an industry in order to get the data we want to present. If we want data which says how much a life is worth, or an invention [where events are the source code], well then society would absolutely back it – but [to date] we haven’t asked the right questions.”

As the industry convened at AIME in February, two notable organisations were absent from the merger; Meetings & Events Australia (MEA) and the for-profit PCO of Australia (PCOA). The likelihood of either maintaining financial sustainability without the support of the members of the merging organisations suggest they may be rowing in shallow waters.

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