When you are a large convention centre or bureau or hotel group you
most probably have the budget to be a member of many industry
associations. But when you are a small business, which is the majority
of those working in the business events sector in Australia, it is a
very different story.
The country currently has two major business event associations
(Meetings & Events Australia and the Professional Conference
Organisers Association), plus one for the exhibition and event sector,
one for the incentive sector, two for the association sector, and a
number of internationally-based organisations that have growing
representation locally. Then there's also the Association of Australian
Convention Bureaux and the Australian Convention Centre Group.
Membership at the majority of these organisations is under AU$1,000
(US$704) per annum but if you want to share the love – and your network –
then being a member of multiple associations quickly adds up.
While membership at these associations has held steady despite the
impact of Covid-19 over the past three years, few, if any, have seen
growth and are unlikely to do so in the foreseeable future.
A vote for change
Perhaps recognising the challenges for the industry, members of the
Exhibition & Event Association of Australasia (EEAA) recently
unanimously supported a resolution that would allow its board to merge
with the Association of Australian Convention Bureaux (AACB) and the
Australian Convention Centres Group (ACCG) to create one entity.
EEAA president Nicole Walker, who describes the decision as a
positive one for the business event sector and for its members, states
that the move will strengthen the EEAA’s ability to serve its members.
The AACB, which held a special general meeting of its members to vote
on the future representation of Australia’s business events industry,
also saw an unanimous vote for the launch of a new body with the other
Similarly, president of the AACB, Michael Matthews, believes that a
united front will have substantial benefits for sector advocacy, giving
those working in the business events industry one key voice to fight for
industry growth, particularly in lobbying government to raise awareness
and support for business events generally.
"A new industry peak with a sustainable business model will be able
to achieve far more and have greater influence than the status quo of
smaller under-resourced groups with competing priorities," he remarked.
The vote for the three organisations to merge is, for now, a vote to explore the opportunity further.
A potential merger of the EEAA, AACB and ACCG will be a step in the
right direction for the industry at large but it really should be
considered as just a first step. Until everybody is on the same page and
there are discussions among all event associations to consider the
creation of one “super group” not a lot is going to change for the
And, even if it does occur, will it change much for industry members
who continue to struggle with either limiting their event association
membership or spending big by being involved with multiple bodies?
What some are hopeful for is other industry associations coming to
the party to also merge. This would clearly create greater benefits but
it is doubtful whether it will ever happen.
The Professional Conference Organisers Association was formed (PCOA)
about 14 years ago, apparently because of dissatisfaction with the other
major organisation, Meetings & Events Australia (MEA).
Since that time the PCOA has had strong membership and sponsors and
has run a successful annual conference, which no doubt helps fund many
of its activities. MEA has a similar membership base but has been around
for a lot longer.
It is unlikely these two organisations will merge with each other or
similar entities unless they were forced to do so over financial
Perhaps it is up to industry members to take things into their own
hands and make their feelings known. At the very least they should be
asking hard questions before they renew their new season association