Air capacity is still playing catch-up with demand

Availability of airline seats is still a key challenge to host international meetings and incentives in Australia or New Zealand.

A panel session at the recent PCOA Conference in Tasmania on the future of the Australian and New Zealand business events industry left attendees a little underwhelmed despite a positive spin.
A panel session at the recent PCOA Conference in Tasmania on the future of the Australian and New Zealand business events industry left attendees a little underwhelmed despite a positive spin.

When and how many business events are booked in the coming 12 months in Australia and New Zealand remains uncertain until international air capacity returns to pre-Covid levels in mid-2023.

At the Professional Conference Organisers Association 2022 conference, which took place mid-December in Hobart, one of the biggest challenges for the industry is the availability of international airline seats – or lack of them – with executive general manager of Commercial & Business Events Australia at Tourism Australia, Robin Mack, informing the PCO audience of more than 350 that the country was currently at 65% of international air capacity in comparison to 2019 levels.

“By June next year we will be up to 83% of where we were before,” he said.

It’s a similar story in New Zealand with Australian business events manager for Tourism New Zealand, Helen Banbry, saying international flights would be back to around 84% of pre-Covid levels early in the new year.

Right now this is a major stumbling block for those seeking to host international meetings and incentives in either Australia or New Zealand.

The high cost of international airline seats are currently at record levels and it is unlikely they will go down anytime soon until capacity comes back.

What is known is that international demand for Australia and New Zealand is strong. Mr Mack said research undertaken by Tourism Australia across all of its key international markets in mid-2022 found Australia at the top of the pile, with the country regarded as number one in terms of safety and security, wildlife, natural beauty, and having excellent business event facilities.

“From the association sector we also scored very highly in terms of business events,” he said.

Research out of New Zealand as a business event destination also scored highly around the world, and particularly in Australia, which provides approximately 60 per cent of all international business event attendees to the country.

Bambry said a survey of Australian corporates, PCOs and in-house event planners in mid-2022, found more than two-thirds said they were considering holding a business event in New Zealand in the next four years.

And that time-frame sounds about right. High New Zealand airfares are right now a stumbling block for delegates and will continue to be so until greater capacity is achieved and prices come down.

One trend that was touched on by panelist, managing director of the All Occasion Group, Anne-Marie Quinn, was the challenges for PCOs in finding staff and the last-minute registrations of delegates, particularly for international conferences.

She cited an international conference her company had recently completed in which 80 per cent of attendees registered in the last two months before the conference commenced.



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