The Face-To-Face Business Events Scene Returns After The Pandemic

Group Team

 The face-to-face Asia Pacific Incentives and Meetings Event (AIME), held this week in Melbourne, has been hailed as a success by buyers, exhibitors, and Julia Swanson, chief executive of the Melbourne Convention Bureau. This is in contrast to the hybrid and video conferencing world, which is struggling post-pandemic.

Swanson said that the post-pandemic recovery had exceeded expectations.

I met with Julia to discuss the dynamics of the industry’s rapid recovery, the obstacles encountered, and the future direction.

“AIME it’s our big event of the year. So, whilst it’s the meeting of Asia Pacific, it’s also the time for Melbourne to Shine” she told Travel Daily Media.

“We have a really good representation both from the Melbourne Convention Bureau, our partners have business events, Victoria and MCC and a number of our partners on the booth. So, it’s a great opportunity for us to meet a lot of our clients, we haven’t met for some time.”

“We’ve got 25 countries here at aim. So it’s a lot of meeting existing clients and also new clients to build on new business relationships. So it’s a great opportunity. We’re delighted. We connect, everyone gets to reconnect and experience the city.”

I do not see the U.S.; isn’t the U.S. a significant market for Melbourne?

We’re not attempting to be a global event, and it is about understanding our requirements are. America is one of Melbourne’s most important inbound markets, but AIME’s fundamental mission is to support Asia Pacific.


What have been the most difficult challenges since the sector reopened?

Everyone’s challenge is aviation, and this is not specific to Melbourne. Being on an island, we rely significantly on aviation. Waiting for it to return and supporting each market when they reopen has been our most difficult challenge.

But we’re steadily improving. We will be at roughly 80% of the total aircraft capacity by April. Some markets are slower, like China, which is approximately 50%, but there are six airlines today, and they will keep adding services. That is most likely the main obstacle. But there is a big desire; our customers want to purchase, they are preparing, and they are ready to go.

Are Business Events on the rebound after the pandemic?

We’re back to pre-pandemic levels in terms of acquisitions, we’ve had a very robust domestic market, and we were probably the first to resume in Melbourne; the international continued running throughout the pandemic.

We’re witnessing a decline in hybrid since customers prefer face-to-face meetings this year. Face-to-face communication cannot be replaced by technology. Not to argue that technology should not have a part in our industry, and there is always a role.

What does the future hold for MCB in 2023?

Some of the significant events on our schedule this year were planned before the onset of Covid. We have Rotary coming in May with around 14,000 delegates and some important conferences that draw people from over 100 countries. “It’s going to be a wonderful event; they’ll be taking venues and hotels all around Melbourne, all the way out to Melbourne Olympic Park, which serves as the Australian Open’s headquarters.”

Over the next six months, we will witness a swift rebound from Asia. China is returning. We have an office in China, and we are welcoming our staff from China to Melbourne this week. Inquiries from China are increasing, and our team on the ground reports that they are rapidly approaching the reopening phase. As aviation rebuilds, we will begin to see those groups return.

How much business has AIME generated this year?

“It’s probably a bit too early to disclose specific statistics,” Swanson said, “but we know from last year the show produced $120 million worth of business events, and that is what our buyers informed us. We will also do hotel assessments. Airfares are substantially higher today than before the pandemic, posing a problem for all destinations.

Which overseas markets are a top focus for MCB?

We have representatives in London, Washington, Malaysia, India, and Shanghai. So we have a worldwide footprint. This year, India and China will likely see the most significant boost or shift. As a result, India is a new market for Melbourne. We added team members in the middle of last year. We hosted the T20 in November, which was a terrific event that drew quite a few attendees from the Indian market and provided robust airline access, better than before COVID between India and Melbourne.

China, which was strong before COVID, is beginning to recover. So, we’ve maintained our overseas offices on the job throughout the epidemic, and you’re working with many planners abroad for meetings in 2023 and 2024. However, those two markets have all recovered reasonably significantly.

What distinct selling proposition differentiates you from your competitors?

Melbourne It’s a city designed for events, even in terms of infrastructure. “We have a complete cultural calendar; Melbourne has a pretty strong theatrical culture; frequently, productions from Broadway and the West End will come to Melbourne, such as Harry Potter, which has been running for several years.”

We have a booming arts district, fashion festivals, flower festivals, you name it, we have everything!” So it’s a real experience city, and you can come and immerse yourself in it. We also emphasise our regional component since you can do almost everything in rural Victoria in one to three hours. You can ski, surf, travel to spa country, and visit vineyards.

You can accomplish almost anything in the Australian goldfields so that you can design your own programme. So that’s what we’re aiming at as a destination.

How do you anticipate MCB to evolve in the next five years?

Look out for us as we grow our worldwide reach and bring more international events to Melbourne. The Melbourne Conference Exhibition Centre is building a second convention centre in Geelong, which the Melbourne Convention Exhibition Centre will manage.

The Commonwealth Games will be held in 2026. There will be a significant increase in the tourism and event industry leading up to that event, and MCB will be supporting the state’s aims in that and expanding that worldwide presence and profile up to 2026. Still, we will continue to do more of what we are doing.

We work closely with the government on their sector plans for the next several years and how business events can be integrated into and supported by that.

If you could make some changes in the business events industry, what they be?

Look, it’s a really fun industry, and it is doing well. We should do a better job of demonstrating its worth to the government and industry, and I concur and have a solid evaluation of our worth in what we do. Beyond tourism, we all know how many delegates come in and how many hotel room nights we book, but being able to quantify the extra value that we provide to our economy is difficult.



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