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$12m fund will be a “game changer”, says Tourism Australia’s Penny Lion

Left to right: Andrew Hiebl, Association of Australian Convention Bureaux; Penny Lion, Tourism Australia; Steven Ciobo MP, Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment; Joyce DiMascio, Chief Executive of the Exhibition and Event Association of Australasia; Karen Bolinger Association of Australian Convention Bureaux

Executive General Manager Events Tourism Australia Penny Lion has told Spice News that the Government’s newly announced $12m business events fund will be a game changer and could help secure international events right up until 2030.

“It’s a game-changer because it is going to help drive conversion and visitation,” Lion said. “In the world of business events it is very competitive, so the bid fund will help influence decision makers and also make it easier for them to choose Australia.”

News of the fund was announced today (15 March) by Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, Steven Ciobo MP at the Destination Australia Conference in Melbourne. The Program will offer financial support at the bidding stage for international corporate incentive trips, exhibitions, association conferences, and congresses, as well as going towards covering costs associated with the delivery of an event within Australia.

Lion stated that the fund will be vital for attracting long-term business out of the US, UK and the rest of Europe, particularly in the association space.

“We need the bid fund when the application is in train and then, once a piece of business is confirmed, that’s when we talk about the allocation of money,” Lion continued. “Some of those events might not happen until 2030, so there are all sorts of opportunities across all sectors.”

When asked for an example of how the fund will help secure business events for Australia, Lion explained that the money can be used to contribute towards expenditures, like booking convention centres and hotels, lowering the cost base of such events and freeing up international clients and delegates to invest in travel, which has commonly been a deterrent for prospective business, due to Australia’s distance from key markets.

“Australia has always played well in the value for money space and, because we deliver excellent business events, [the fund] is going to make it easier for clients to choose Australia due to the fact that there is economic support for them.”

To qualify for the fund, events must have a minimum of 500 delegates and a $3 million spend, which Lion said is the area where Australia starts to see a return on investment. “We have done a lot of homework on this and we think this is a reasonable ask. Some people might ask for $100,000 and the value of that event might be really high and then others might ask for $1 million and their event might not be worth as much in terms of delegate numbers.

“The industry is so excited about this announcement, as they work so hard in this space. For me, it is all about the industry being able to convert more business for Australia.”

The Association of Australian Convention Bureaux (AACB) CEO Andrew Hiebl said that the events industry must use the fund to help reverse Australia’s recent decline in global ranking and market share, having dropped out of the top ten in the International Congress and Convention Association’s (ICCA) annual country rankings.

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