Interviews

Australia: “Confidence for business events and travel is returning”

Penny Lion, Executive General Manager Events at Tourism Australia, describes the current situation of the business events' sector in the country.

Australia was quick to respond to the Covid-19 outbreak and the “relatively successful” way that the country is dealing with the virus has allowed many businesses to reopen and scale up. And according to a research conducted by Tourism Australia, corporate decision makers’ confidence for business events and travel is increasing.

Event Point interviewed Penny Lion, Executive General Manager Events at Tourism Australia, that described the current moment of business events’ sector and explained the evolution of digital events during the pandemic. Penny Lion also said that the “reopening for international business events will be dependent on Australia’s international border restrictions”. It has been a difficult year for the business events sector, but there is hope.

 

Can you give us an overview of how your country dealt with the Covid-19 pandemic?

The Australian Government was quick to respond to the COVID outbreak, announcing an emergency response plan on 27 February 2020. As the Government continued to roll out recovery measures as the pandemic unfolded, the focus remained on strengthening and boosting Australia’s health care systems while also mitigating economic consequences as much as possible. Various restrictions have been implemented at different times since the start of the pandemic to slow the spread of COVID in Australia, including the closure of Australia’s international border to all non-citizens and non-residents since 20 March 2020. These measures have all contributed to the relatively low incidence of COVID in Australia, with the majority of cases being acquired overseas and contained in the state’s hotel quarantine systems. Australia’s relatively successful handling of the virus has allowed many businesses to reopen and scale up, while in-person business events have also restarted.

 

eventpoint events businessevents destinations tourism australia covid19 interviews

Smart Badge | @Canberra Convention Bureau

 

How can you describe the current situation of the business event' sector in Australia?

It has been a difficult year for the business events sector, but, as a whole, the industry has remained positive throughout. Event innovation during the pandemic included Australian company Harry The Hirer creating the Smart Badge, a social distancing, contact tracing wearable that can also be used for room capacity monitoring. According to ongoing research conducted by Tourism Australia during the pandemic, measuring Australian corporate decision maker attitudes towards restarting events, confidence for business events and travel is returning. In the latest research wave, completed in late February and early March 2021, 66 per cent of decision makers said they were planning events in the next six to 12 months, up two per cent from December and 18 per cent from the first wave of research which was completed in August 2020. Sixty-one per cent of respondents said they were comfortable for themselves and their staff to fly for business in Australia now, up three per cent since December 2020. In a reflection of this shifting sentiment, face-to-face business events are resuming across the country. Some states have been holding larger scale events since late 2020, with Perth in Western Australia holding an event for 900 people in October and Brisbane hosting almost 1,900 the same month. Tourism Australia recently held its annual Destination Australia conference in Sydney, which saw a record in-person attendance of 450 guests with people travelling from across Australia. Although virtual attendance was an option, more people opted to attend in person, highlighting the appetite to return to face-to-face events. 

What are the rules for organizing events? There's a limitation of people? Masks or tests are mandatory?

Each of Australia’s state and territories have their own rules and guidance for what is possible at events. Broadly speaking, social distancing is encouraged but currently attendees are not required to wear masks if following the guidelines. Many states set gathering limits based on the available space at a venue, so each attendee has enough room to maintain appropriate physical distance from others. You can see the current restrictions for business events in each state on Business Events Australia’s website – these are updated frequently. 

 

eventpoint events businessevents destinations tourism australia covid19 interviews

Destination Australia 2021 | @Tourism Australia

 

What's the behaviour of attendees? Do they believe that events are safe?

Feedback from attendees is that are pleased to be able to meet face to face again. Comments by attendees at Tourism Australia’s Destination Australia conference, attended by 450 people, elicited a strong positive response recognizing the value of meeting in person compared to in a virtual environment.

When are your expecting to reopen for international MICE events?

Reopening for international business events will be dependent on Australia’s international border restrictions. While there is no set date for the lifting of these restrictions currently, in the meantime, the delivery of business events domestically is strengthening the industry’s supply chain and ‘COVIDSafe’ event measures in preparation for the return of international events.

What was the evolution of digital events during the pandemic?

The was a large uptake of digital events during the height of pandemic in Australia, with many venues and industry suppliers creating studios to facilitate virtual events. According to Tourism Australia’s business events research, 60 per cent of events held in the last 10-11 months were either virtual or hybrid events. The research also indicates that going forward, face-to-face events are preferred, with 61 per cent of decision makers who are planning events in the next 12 to 18 months or sooner intending to run their events fully face to face, with 16 per cent planning hybrid events and only 23 per cent planning fully virtual events. 

 

eventpoint events businessevents destinations tourism australia covid19 interviews

Great Barrier Reef | @Salty Wings

 

Do you believe that being Australia a success case in terms of dealing with the pandemic can be decisive to attract international business events in the future?

The feedback we are receiving from customers in our key international business events markets is that Australia is perceived as having handled the pandemic well and sentiment for Australia is positive. Both of these indicators place Australia in a good position as an attractive business events destination once our international border reopens. 

 

Cláudia Coutinho de Sousa and Maria João Leite

Opening picture: Perth | @Tourism Australia

 

Tags: Interviews, Events, Destinations, Australia, Covid-19

31-03-2021