Australian PCOs set for a bumper year in business events

Planners at PCOA22 in Hobart are seeing swift recovery and solid demand building up for 2023.

The 14th Professional Conference Organisers Association Conference was held in Tasmania in mid-December, with the almost 400 delegates predicting a bumper 2023.
The 14th Professional Conference Organisers Association Conference was held in Tasmania in mid-December, with the almost 400 delegates predicting a bumper 2023.

For the 400 delegates who convened in Tasmania for the 14th Professional Conference Organisers Association Conference (PCOA) in mid-December, the exhilarating feeling of meeting in person was boosted with the positive prospects of a bumper 2023.

The overriding takeaway from the three-day event was that business events was looking strong for Australian planners and venue operators in 2023.

Managing director of DCB Events, Darren Crichton-Browne, whose company had had a fantastic back half of 2022, said he is hopeful that business stabilises in 2023 with more forward planning and less short-lead time demands.

“We’re pretty booked up for the most of 2023, kicking off in early March in destinations including Hobart in Tasmania and Perth, and then a lot of state roadshows driving us through to November,” he said.

“Things are looking really promising and I think we’re all heading in the right direction. For us next year is all focused on domestic business.

“One of the biggest barriers for us internationally is the cost of airfares, particularly those in the corporate and franchise worlds.”

General manager of Business Events Cairns & Great Barrier Reef, Rosie Douglas, who was attending PCOA as an exhibitor, said 2023 was looking solid for the region. "I think we’re starting to get back to normality,” she said.

“We have the convention centre extension opening mid-year and they are fairly solidly booked with events. Some events that were postponed have now come through the system, and we believe the international market will open up as we get greater aviation access.

“It’s all been national business this year [2022]. A place like Cairns relies on aviation access and we do see that coming back in 2023.”

“Feedback internationally is that Cairns is back on the radar but realistically we won’t be seeing international groups until 2024.”

“The domestic corporate market has been very strong for us and we see that continuing. There is also a lot of interest from New Zealand.”

Managing director of The Association Specialists, Nel Harrison, said 2023 will be a year of recovery for the sector.

“I see a lot of growth and we have a full deck of business on the books,” she said. “All the associations we worked with hit their targets this year and next year is all about growth.

“Hybrid will always be in the mix, not now from a risk perspective but from a growth perspective. A lot of organisations have worked out that hybrid events open up opportunities in new markets. Hybrid is there because it allows those who are in regional or remote or international markets to still participate.”

Director of Sydney-based Bel Events, Belinda Tilling, who started her business in 2020, also said 2023 was looking extremely positive.

“We grew in 2022 and 2023 is starting to grow for us. People I had worked with in the past are now coming to me and talking to me about future business,” she said.

“We have about five or six events planned for next year, all domestic at this stage, and I am anticipating quite a number to come through early next year.”

General manager of bid management at Business Events Adelaide, Jakki Goven, said Adelaide had made a rapid recover from the Covid-19 pandemic and 2023 and 2024 was now looking extremely strong.

“What we’re seeing for 2023-4 will be the biggest years Adelaide has ever had in terms of business events, not only the convention centre which will be full to the brim with national and international conferences, but a lot of business for our major hotels,” she said.

“We’re also seeing a real increase in regional activity, not only for our traditional conference sector but also for the incentive market.”

The 15th PCOA Conference will be held at the Adelaide Convention Centre from 10-12 December 2023.

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