Through its latest Forward Calendar analysis, the Association of Australian Convention Bureaux (AACB) has recorded 259 international business events that have cancelled since the Federal Government closed Australia’s international border in March 2020.
AACB President, Michael Matthews explained, “It has taken convention bureaux years of positive engagement to position Australia ahead of competing countries to secure these international business events. Global rotation of many of these opportunities means we are simply not able to host again in the next year or two, and some may see 5-10 years until regional rotation allows us to contest and bid again.”
With these cancelled business events, Australia has lost the opportunity to host more than 100,000 international delegates and experts in their fields across health, science, education, and business, in our capital and regional cities.
From a direct visitor perspective, the loss of more than 700,000 delegate days has removed some $420 million in anticipated revenue from tourism and events businesses and has diminished their ability to keep skilled people in work in our local communities.
The recent two-week delay in reopening Australia’s international border by the Federal Government in response to the new Omicron variant is a reaction that event organisers around the world are watching – defining our global reputation – and impacting destination selection today for business events in future years.
Speaking to Australian tourism industry leaders Destinations International’s President and CEO, Don Welsh said, “While Australia remains on bucket lists of travellers around the world, they continue to watch the border closures and lockdown decisions of governments. In this difficult environment, reputation, certainty and trust are critical when the global competition for visitors has never been higher.”
Mr Matthews said, “The delay to international re-opening, coupled with state and territory lockdowns and restrictions on the domestic business events market over the past 20 months has prevented the industry from earning revenue and operating with consistency, and warrants the need for fair and targeted Federal financial support.”
This need is even more urgent given that a significant proportion of the Government’s $50m Business Events Grant Program has failed to reach the industry’s supply chain as intended, more than 12 months after it was announced.
Mr Matthews added, “As we see states and territories begin re-open, many supply chain businesses will continue to run at a loss well into 2022, as the peak domestic business events season for this year comes to an end. Business survival and the retention of specialist industry skills is a key concern – both of which are critical to deliver on the high demand expected in recovery.”
It is also timely for the Government to commit now to investment in the successful Business Events Bid Fund Program for the next three years, in addition to Tourism Australia’s annual appropriation, as identified in the THRIVE 2030 plan, to boost future confidence and attract high-yield business events and their delegates to Australia. As program commitments are only activated for successful bids, and matched financial contribution is required, the bid fund offers only a win-win opportunity for the Federal Government and Australia.
“Australia’s convention bureaux face fierce international competition for business events as governments around the world recognise the strategic advantages of using business events as a platform in the race for global talent, trade and foreign direct investment,” said Mr Matthews.