Interview with John O'Sullivan
John O'Sullivan, managing director of Tourism Australia, discusses with Keith Chan some of the major attractions that Australia has to offer as a MICE destination, and various initiatives to attract overseas visitors, especially from mainland China and Hong Kong.
For MICE events, what are Australia's key attractions?
Australia is a highly desirable destination for business events, offering natural beauty and spectacular environments, as well as outstanding business events facilities, high-quality accommodation, and top-class local cuisine and wines.
The creativity and expertise within Australia's business events industry, and the can-do attitude of its practitioners, ensure that we can tailor events to meet the individual business outcomes needed by events organisers, rather than adopt a one-size-fits-all approach.
Offering a variety of destinations - from beaches and cities to deserts and tropical islands - as well as a wealth of activities, including snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef and sailing in Sydney Harbour, there is always something new to experience when hosting a business event in Australia.
What are Australia's major MICE markets? How have these markets performed over the past year, and what do you expect from the coming year?
The business events sector is a very important part of Australia's visitor economy and is worth A$14 billion (HK$84 billion) annually. International business events are a big part of this, with the number of visitors to such events reaching 806,000 in 2015 and total expenditure of A$3.875 billion.
Greater China is Australia's second biggest market for business events in terms of spending, and the third largest in terms of visitors. The number of greater China visitors to business events in Australia reached 94,000 in 2015, and their expenditure increased by 7 per cent to A$568 million.
The outlook for business events for Australia remains positive for this year and beyond, and we look forward to welcoming and supporting more business events in Australia.
Have any key meeting and exhibition facilities opened in Australia recently, and will any be opening over the next few years? What are the special features of these venues?
Australia is going through unprecedented infrastructure development to ensure venues, services and capacity are suitable for meeting demand. The International Convention Centre Sydney is on track for its December 2016 opening and is capable of holding four concurrent events and more than 12,000 delegates.
Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre is undergoing expansion with the construction of a new building which will increase total size to over 70,000 square metres. Construction will include a 341-room hotel that will be completed in the first half of 2018. Several new hotels have opened, increasing capacity and choice for business events travellers, as well as adding new business events products and experiences.
What are the popular itineraries for incentive groups from China? What are the trends of their travel patterns?
Australia's accessible natural scenery and sophisticated cities are popular with Chinese business events delegates. While renowned destinations in Australia, such as Sydney, the Gold Coast and Melbourne, remain popular with our clients, a lot of regions that may have been overlooked in the past have now become fresh options. The Whitsundays, for example, is growing in popularity with Chinese groups, with its pristine environment and stunning waterways, and is only a one hour and 20 minute flight from Brisbane.
Tasmania has also risen in terms of popularity following the widely publicised visit there by President Xi Jinping in November 2014.
What is the focus of Tourism Australia's promotional works for attracting more MICE visitors? Have any major initiatives/promotional campaigns been launched recently?
In early 2016, Tourism Australia unveiled the latest iteration of its global campaign, There's Nothing Like Australia, to highlight the country's aquatic and coastal attributes. The campaign builds on the success of Restaurant Australia, which has been running since 2014, and was launched in New York featuring actor Chris Hemsworth as global campaign ambassador.
The campaign provides another opportunity to highlight the experiences Australia can offer. Our Consumer Demand Project research tells us that our visitors find the aquatic and coastal experiences highly appealing, with almost 60 per cent of decision makers naming a coastal location as their preferred destination for hosting a business event in Australia.
What kind of support can Tourism Australia provide to MICE events organisers from mainland China and Hong Kong?
As the government agency for marketing Australia internationally as a destination for business and leisure, Tourism Australia - together with the convention bureaus of the individual states and cities - can provide all the information that corporate clients need when deciding whether to choose Australia for their next business event.
Tourism Australia has a dedicated business events team in greater China headed by L.C. Tan, regional business events director, greater China, and Jenny Yang, business events manager China, who can provide information and training tools, so that clients can learn about destinations and facilities.