Attracting association conference delegates to Australia

It’s no surprise that Australia has been ranked ‘most exciting destination for conferences’ in a recent report published by Tourism Australia. With unrivalled vistas, iconic landmarks, some of the world’s most livable cities and strangest creatures, plus the lengthy flight is tax deductable – who wouldn’t jump on a chance to come here for ‘work’? 

The new study looked into the decision-making process of international delegates for a destination conference with the purpose of helping event marketers understand what the biggest motivators were.

The appeal of Australia for its beautiful countryside and beaches are an obvious draw-card, but there is much more to Australia when it comes to a conference destination. When comparing different countries, we’re seen as safer, more reliable and we have a strong portfolio of successful international event experience. It’s therefore easy to understand why Australia is the perfect trifecta.


"22% of respondents rated Australian conferences 10 out of 10 versus the 16% global average."
New research on Association Conference Delegate Behaviour, Tourism Australia


So what are the other draw cards? The study revealed destination appeal, conference content, speaker reputation and networking potential are the main drivers. Delving deeper into the quality of content, Australia is a safe-bet when considering the profile of speakers at our conferences, the high standard of audio vision and production delivery, and of course our world-class conference venues. But this isn’t anything new or previously unassumed. 

The report also highlighted that for over 60% of respondents, extending the trip into a holiday is a decision influencing factor. This is a useful insight for the way we plan and promote our conferences to international markets. Respondents felt a strong social program that includes networking events and leisure activities which highlight the country’s history, culture, food and wildlife is a key component to what makes a conference appealing. 


"Conferences which successfully manage to integrate the program of events with the destination are the most appealing."
New research on Association Conference Delegate Behaviour, Tourism Australia


In its path to gaining a deeper a understanding of the conference delegate, Tourism Australia embarked on a data sharing arrangement with Virgin Australia which sees them tracking and passing on information relating to online activity for any consumer who comes to Australia.com and then moves onto Virgin Australia digital properties. This partnership is to be part of a number of other data partnerships in the next 12 months. Without having inside knowledge into the arrangement and what the set objectives are, it will be interesting to see how the two use the shared data and whether it will provide any great insight into marketing our conferences.

It may be an obvious tactic in marketing internationally, but the report stressed the need for a sophisticated and well thought-out conference website that informs, inspires and motivates delegates. Having an aesthetically appealing website coupled with a helpful event app is the best way to attract and keep your conference delegates engaged through-out the entire life-cycle of the conference – pre, during and post. Without this crucial touch point, you’re basically fishing without a hook and hoping for the best.

Sydney is our most popular destination for international conferences and the forecast is strong. For association events like international conferences, Sydney offers the chance for global thought leaders to connect and collaborate. There is a real sense that Sydney is undergoing a transformation, with many new infrastructure developments offering great opportunities for future business events.

The conference and exhibition market in Sydney, is expected to hit a high in late 2016, when the International Convention Centre Sydney (ICC Sydney) opens in Darling Harbour. So this research is pertinently timed.

The ICC Sydney has already secured a number of major international events which will no doubt support Tourism Australia’s 2020 goal is to achieve more than $115 billion in overnight spend by 2020 (up from $70 billion in 2009). The opening of the Centre is also perfectly timed for the recent opening of Four Points by Sheraton Sydney in Darling Harbour. The venue will be Australia’s largest hotel, boasting 892 guest rooms and 3,700sq metres of conference and event space making Darling Harbour a new conference hub for Sydney.

The importance of the business events industry to Australia, cannot be underestimated in terms of their economic contribution. Another report by Ernst & Young and the Business Events Council of Australia found that over 37 million people attended more than 412,000 business events in Australia between 2013 and 2014. These business events directly generated $28.0 billion in direct expenditure, $13.5 billion in direct value added and 179,357 direct jobs.

Another piece of research released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed that Australia welcomed 555,800 international visitor arrivals during June 2016, an increase of 13.7 per cent compared to the same month during the previous year. For the year ending June 2016, total international arrivals reached 7.8 million, up 10 percent compared to the same period last year.

Australia is home to some of the most skilled event professionals in the world, having played host to numerous large global events including Rotary, the Olympics, Amway, Commonwealth Games, so we have the experience to deliver. Staging Connections recently delivered the Amway Taiwan international incentive event as well as working on LNG18 (the International Conference and Exhibition on Liquefied Natural Gas. Both events delivered huge benefits to the economy.

With our vast natural beauty, new and expansive event infrastructure, tourism partnerships and a skilled community of event professionals, it’s no doubt that our nation is set to see the number, quality and profile of both association and corporate events rise. Marketers across Australia, including those in house at venues, suppliers, caterers and event management companies have a major opportunity to push the core benefits of Australia out to market, that fortunately, are the ultimate match for the desires of international business travellers.

They say records are set to be broken, and with Australia’s inbound tourism and events sector heating up rapidly, get ready for it to boil over!


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This article was written by Adele Symonds, Marketing Manager at Staging Connections.

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