Meeting Newz Septeber / October 2022

Business events are back but it’s not all sunshine and roses for Australian event planners, with European and US programmes particularly not likely to head Down Under in large numbers for some time yet. Following a June sales trip to the United States, director of sales at one of the country’s most successful destination management companies, ID Events Australia, Karen Livermore, says the clients she spoke to said they were still playing catch-up with business they had planned during the pandemic period. “They may have been coming to Australia in 2023 but because they’ve postponed their programmes in 2020 and 2021, that 2023 Australian programme is now more likely to be in 2024 or 2025,” she explains. She says that ID Events Australia has been running events, mostly in Sydney, and does have programmes on the books now until the end of the year and into 2023, “but the volume of work we’re engaged in is still 50 per cent of what we were being asked to quote on pre-pandemic. “There also remains some reservations about travelling long-haul. The clients I spoke to [US based] are preferring North America, Hawaii and the Caribbean. Just in case [there are further outbreaks].” Director of destination management at Ovation DMC in Sydney, Sonja Söderbom, believes international clients are feeling more confident in travelling internationally and they have the enquiries to prove it. She and her team are preparing to hit the ground running over the next three months with back to back programmes around the country. “Enquiries are coming from all over the world, but we are seeing a lot of interest out of the USA and Asia, specifically Singapore and Hong Kong, who have short lead times, with opportunities and programmes travelling in 2022,” she says. “We are seeing a focus on single destination incentive programmes with Sydney and Melbourne being the most popular currently, however programme requests into 2023 are considering dual destinations such as Sydney and Cairns.” Delegate numbers for these events are also strong, averaging between 150 and 300 people. “Budgets in some cases are actually higher as clients want to provide memorable moments and special touches because it’s the first time they have brought their clients or staff together in some time.” Venue operators beware The upturn in business combined with the lack of venue staff is causing serious complications for many planners. And as ID Events’ Karen Livermore explains, it’s not just lower staff numbers in venues that is the problem, it’s staff with little to no experience. “It’s a re-education process for us with catering companies, transport companies, and a lot of venues,” she explains. “You ask for inbound rates or rates that are wholesale and they don’t even get it. We’re talking to squeaky voiced children who seem like they’re just out of school. “We brainstorm a client proposal, we come up with out of the box creative ideas and then we go to the venue and say this is what we want to do and they say they’re going to have to check [whether we can]. They’re young and they’re simply order takers.” She cites one example where they contacted an historic venue in Sydney where instead of having a lunch in the main restaurant they wanted to have it in the boiler room that provided the kind of ambience that suited the group and was something a little less ordinary. Additionally, she wanted the group to arrive at the venue by boat. “It totally confused them and they weren’t sure whether we could do it. You feel like you’re dealing with government employees and we really don’t have the time to educate these people. “The business is coming back but we don’t feel like we’re getting the support that we need.” Associations back but numbers lower in some sectors Following two years of no face-to-face meetings, the association sector is seeing a keenness to both meet and replenish balance sheets which have been negatively affected by the inability to run events, says executive chair of The Association Specialists, Francis Child, and managing director Nell Harrison. The Association Specialists currently has approximately 75 national associations under management and another 15 they work with in a pure event management capacity. “Conferences are happening again and the second half of 2022 and 2023 will be strong performers for the for purpose sector,” they say. “There are, however, still sector specific challenges, particularly with medical and health related events and others where shortages of staff are restricting attendees’ ability to get leave to participate. “Numbers attending face-to-face in these sectors are therefore lower than preCovid at this stage, both domestically and internationally in particular.” Child and Harrison say that in addition, sector specific uncertainty is leading to later decisions by delegates to register which in turn complicates decision-making in regard to venues, accommodation and travel commitments. “To minimise risk and maximise returns associations have been leaning towards locations where their membership support is strongest, particularly the eastern seaboard cities. However, this is being mitigated somewhat by financial incentives on offer in various locations. We would expect the normal rotational cycle to come back by 2024 assuming no major disruptions between now and then.” International convention and incentive postponements over the past two years could have a knock-on effect for Australian planners. AUSTRALIA AT THE BACKOF THE QUEUE FOR INTERNATIONAL EVENTS [I NDUSTRY I SSUE S Karen Livermore, ID Events Australia Sonja Söderbom, Ovation DMC By Brad Foster [8] meeting newz [sept oct] 2022