MELBOURNE — Australia’s MICE industry is preparing a new way of doing business as it negotiates the wipe-out of 2020 events.
“We are seeing increasing appetite in Asian markets for corporate,
incentive and meeting information and a swing toward hybrid events – a
mix of live and virtual, as an interim measure in the European and USA
association sector,” says Melbourne Convention Bureau (MCB) chief
executive, Julia Swanson.
MCB said it is responding to demand by re-organising some products and services to deliver them digitally.
It’s a similar story in Sydney where Business Events Sydney (BE
Sydney) CEO Lyn Lewis Smith said when business does come back, “it will
happen in a different way”. She said hybrid meetings will be part of the
In Melbourne, the MCB has been working closely with clients to delay or postpone their business events, rather than cancel.
“We’ve had success here, with 70% of planned events rescheduled to next year,” Swanson said.
“This has been achieved with thanks to our partner venues,
accommodation providers and services being flexible with their
cancellation policies and working hard to fit the postponed events into
next year’s calendar.”
MCB says it is continuing to identify, negotiate and secure the
business events pipeline spanning out as far as 2028. “This side of the
business remains largely unaffected,” Swanson added.
Sinead Yeo, BE Sydney’s regional director Asia, said a renewed
campaign into the Asian market is being planned for post-Covid “to
ensure that we are ready to launch at a time when appropriate for each
“Traditionally, our clients have looked for big hero activities when
visiting Sydney. We are now working with our partners and the industry
to look at more bespoke experiences that will really appeal, especially
to repeat clients that have visited Sydney before,” Yeo said.
Business at Sydney International Convention Centre (ICC) has been
“crippled”, says CEO Geoff Donaghy. “In a few short weeks our sector –
worth A$35.7 billion (US$25.4bn) a year to Australia’s economy –
shutdown, impacting businesses and livelihoods up and down the supply
chain and across the country.”
Donaghy is especially mindful of the impact of the lockdown on ICC’s
suppliers. “For example, we work with over 135 food, drink and wine
suppliers to showcase the best of Australian produce to our guests.
“It’s with great sadness that, as a result of the impact of COVID-19,
we have not been able to purchase from our local producers. It is
devastating to think of the effect our situation is now having on these
businesses and their people. Unfortunately, our industry is facing a
long road to recovery,” Donaghy said.
When the pandemic hit in March 2020, and Australia’s international
and state borders began to close, ICC staff worked to develop a dual
on-site and virtual event solution.
"The Hybrid Event Solutions allow clients to host attendees here on
site, and in accordance with strict social distancing measures, whilst
also live streaming to an unlimited number of remote attendees,” Donaghy
ICC Sydney is working with of Business Events Council of Australia
(BECA) and Australian Chamber of Commerce & Industry’s Tourism
Restart Taskforce alongside, Exhibition and Event Association of
Australasia (EEAA) and Meeting & Events Australia (MEA), to ensure
the industry’s recovery remains front of mind with decision makers.
Said Donaghy: “This includes a meeting with the Prime Minister to
discuss the challenges we collectively face and joining my colleagues to
develop the coordinated industry response – the Covid-19 Business
Events Response and Recovery Framework.
"The key aim is to sustain the business events sector over the next
12 months, building a strong position from which to rebound and grow on
the other side of this crisis.
“While the world might have got used to Zoom calls for now, nothing
can replace the value exchange of coming together and meeting in
Elsewhere, Business Events Perth has secured the world’s largest
marine mammal conference for December 2023. BE Perth chief executive,
Gareth Martin, said hosting the 25th Biennial Conference on the Biology
of Marine Mammals “comes at a crucial time for the local business events
industry, which has been impacted significantly by the coronavirus
Perth’s bid was supported by Tourism Australia’s Business Events Bid
Fund Programme, which is designed to help revive the domestic business
events sector in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis and drive new business
to regions around Australia.
The programme provides convention bureaus, convention centres,
professional conference organisers and event managers with the
opportunity to leverage the agency’s expertise and help win new domestic
Corporate travel groups proceed with caution
For the Flight Centre Travel Group, corporate travel business has
largely fuelled the company’s revenue generation during the Covid-19
In a 13 August statement to the Australian Stock Exchange, FCTG boss
Graham Turner said, “We have continued to win a record amount of new
corporate accounts, while generating an underlying corporate profit
“This highlights both our corporate business’s resilience and its
strong future growth prospects in this large, global travel sector.”
New accounts with annual spends in order of $US1.3 billion were
secured by Flight Centre Travel Solutions (FCM) during FY20 with the
majority of these wins coming during the second half.
CWT Meetings and Events says while it has seen a spike in client
requests for support with virtual meetings and events, in recent weeks
many of CWT’s clients in Australia have been pushing for face-to-face
meetings over virtual meetings, wherever possible.
“Unfortunately, the situation remains quite fluid and restrictions
are changing daily and so naturally there is still a sense of caution,”
says Michelle Sargent, director, Australia/New Zealand, CWT Meetings
“Still, we are seeing positive signs amongst our clients in
Australia, with corporates starting to make domestic event arrangements
and enquiries for Q4 2020.
“Companies are starting to rethink their meeting strategies for the
last quarter of this year and for next year, to ensure they’re able to
secure the venues and accommodation of their choice.”
CWT says it has had some good-sized group enquiries coming through in key markets.
“Interestingly, planners are keen to take business out of the city
centres, so they can provide attendees with a change in scenery and
support regional economies at the same time,” says Sargent.
“We’ve been presenting clients with ideas based on initiatives such
as “farm to plate” and “empty esky”, which have been gaining a lot of
traction. The main challenge thus far has been finding hotels that can
accommodate bigger groups in some of these locations.”
CWT says the quickest pick-up has been in sectors which have been
less impacted by the pandemic, such as companies within the logistics
and home delivery sectors, who are looking to accelerate recruitment.
“Many online businesses like e-commerce and tech companies are also
thriving, and of course many pharmaceutical and healthcare businesses
are busy with all the demand created from the Covid-19 pandemic.,” says
“Some of these companies are already thinking about incentives for
employees and channel partners for when restrictions begin to ease.
“That said, even as restrictions ease, a lot will be different for
meetings and events post-Covid, at least in the near- to mid-term.
CWT expects group sizes will be much smaller and meetings shorter.
“We expect virtual and hybrid events will form a more significant
part of a company’s meetings and events strategy moving forward, with
digital channels being used to extend the reach of live events,” adds
“At the end of the day, the safety of our clients’ attendees and of
our own employees is of paramount importance. We are not only adhering
to guidance from governments, but also working closely with our
preferred hotel, transport and other partners to ensure they are taking
the necessary heightened safety measures and precautions before we
recommend and book.”