New association for Australian business events

Business Events Council of Australia sees changes with the formation of a new body by three members.

The MEA NSW Awards: the MEA is in the “no” camp for the new association.
The MEA NSW Awards: the MEA is in the “no” camp for the new association. Photo Credit: Ben Williams Photography

Australia’s umbrella association for the business events industry is facing uncertainty following an announcement of the formation of a new body by three of its key members.

The Business Events Council of Australia (BECA), formed in 1994, was created to provide an umbrella structure for the key industry associations operating in the Australian business events sector. These were the Association of Australian Convention Bureaux (AACB), the Australian Convention Centres Group (ACCG), the Exhibition and Event Association of Australasia (EEAA), Meetings & Events Australia (MEA), and the Professional Conference Organisers Association. (PCOA).

A major part of BECA’s work was lobbying government on behalf of the entire industry on the value and importance of the business event sector to Australia’s economy.

A joint statement by the AACB, the ACCG and the EEAA that they will form the new Australian Business Events Association (ABEA) claims that this new association will lead to “a unified business events” industry.  

MEA is the longest standing business event association in Australia, founded in 1975. The PCOA was founded 14 years ago and since then has developed a strong membership base.

MEA CEO, Peter McDonald, told members last week that MEA had been party to work and discussions about the new association and its board had considered the appropriateness of participating in the establishment of ABEA. He said the new association’s mandate will be contained to business events whereas MEA has existed to service and support the full latitude of businesses and individuals who constitute the Australian events industry.

“Business events and non-business events both contribute substantially to Australia’s visitor economy,” he said.

Also for the “no” camp is the PCOA. President, Barry Neame, said they too were involved in discussions about the formation of the new association.

“We have sought clarity on a number of matters and will review our decision to engage with or otherwise when appropriate. In the meantime, it is business as usual for the PCOA,” he said.

“We will continue to represent professional conference organisers and event management companies in Australia, providing [them] with information and resources, networking opportunities and professional development.

“And critically, the association will continue to advocate on behalf of members to government and other stakeholders to promote the interests of our industry.”

The planned launch of the ABEA is set for 3 July 2023. To achieve this, a Project Development Group has been established with directors from the three lead associations (the AACB, the ACCG and the EEAA). Peter King is an independent chair of the board. King was the former CEO of the Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre.

Peter King said an industry of Australia’s size, scope and importance needed one strong and robust association to get traction on the issues that matter. King is adamant “a consolidated and united association can commission much-needed research, create policy, train its people, tackle sustainability, develop career paths, link with international and domestic trade opportunities and powerfully advocate to government.”

“COVID taught us that we need to get serious about amplifying our collective voice. We are building a platform through which we can develop the outcomes and the impact the people and organisations who deliver approximately 480,000 business events annually need to thrive, create jobs, and contribute to the economy.”

ABEA will reportedly have membership categories designed to ensure engagement within the industry is accessible to all, regardless of business size. The association is currently advertising for a CEO.

Meanwhile, in the past week MEA recently hosted its annual awards events in three cities with strong attendance and is expecting good numbers at its annual conference on the Gold Coast in early June.

Also, the PCOA is in the planning stages for its annual conference in Adelaide later this year.