Australia is back in business

International delegates at AIME 2022 set the tone for a positive restart at Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre.

MCEC’s CEO Peter King welcomes the first international delegates at AIME 2022 since the pandemic.
MCEC’s CEO Peter King welcomes the first international delegates at AIME 2022 since the pandemic.

Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre was the host venue for this year’s AIME show*, which took place from 21-23 March. Its CEO Peter King shows why Australia is back in business

What were the major challenges you faced this year?

We would normally have a sizable number of attendees from China attending, but with the country closed to international travel, the Chinese element took quite a hit. We also had some last-minute no-shows as some attendees had tested positive for Covid just prior to the event. We are still operating within an uncertain market and people are leaving business decisions until quite late. But the desire to come to Australia is very strong, we’ve shown it’s a very safe environment and destination and that we are open for business.

How were attendance and exhibitor figures compared to previous show editions?

Exhibitors and buyers connected at AIME 2022 over a total of 6,540 meetings.
Exhibitors and buyers connected at AIME 2022 over a total of 6,540 meetings. Photo Credit: AIME

AIME 2022 is the first national tradeshow to welcome international delegates since the pandemic hit. There were 221 exhibitors including those from New Zealand, Japan, the Philippines, Qatar, Singapore, Hong Kong, South Africa and more, broken down into 54 international exhibitors and 171 national exhibitors. We welcomed nearly 400 buyers (342 hosted buyers and 52 virtual buyers with 30 international buyers among these) and 50% of buyers were new to AIME. We had more than 1,500 visitor buyers and visitor suppliers; compared to previous shows, and capacity was around 75% of the show in 2020 (when the event was last held in person).

What were the big trends on the showfloor?

The immediate interest was firmly focused on meetings in person and face-to-face interaction - there was a huge desire to network. Surprisingly, we didn’t get a lot of interest in virtual elements, even though this was something we’d provided as a venue. We had technology in place so people could post questions, and we set aside rooms to enable exhibitors to host virtual roundtables, so those at the show could connect remotely if they wished to.

What has it been like to return to live events?

We hosted a number of events in February, from reasonably big exhibitions to smaller conferences. From the venue perspective, we’ve had a set of protocols embedded in the business, covering cleaning regimes and QR codes to enable contactless activity, for example, so for AIME, we didn’t have to change processes too much. We widened the aisles compared to previous years so people had more room to navigate the show floor and provide space for virtual interaction but other than that, it was very much business as usual.

What has been your biggest takeaway from AIME 2022?

There was a great buzz and confidence which demonstrates the resilience of our industry and its collaborative nature. Suppliers, buyers and venues - we all worked really closely together to stage the event and there is a feeling that we can recover more quickly than we may have at first anticipated. There is of course a little element of concern in these early days as the world reopens, but generally speaking, there is a broadly positive outlook.

*AIME will be back from 13 to 15 February 2023 in Melbourne.