Fergie rallies behind events sector

Fergie rallies behind events sector
By admin

Federal tourism minister Martin Ferguson has pledged his support for the business events industry, but insisted that new infrastructure is vital for Australia to rival "stiff competition" in Singapore.

Opening the inaugural Business Events Week at AIME yesterday, Ferguson revealed that business events attracted one in seven people to Australia in 2012, an 8% increase on the previous year.

Delegate spending jumped 12% to $2.6 billion in 2012, with business events now contributing $13 billion to the overall tourism income.

With the economic value of business events up on previous years, Ferguson coined the sector as a "critical" component of Australia's tourism marketing strategy.

But he stressed infrastructure was an area of concern which may tarnish Australia's reputation as business events destination.

"We are now meeting demand for infrastructure, but we need to grow to meet up with stiff competition from Singapore," Ferguson warned. "New facilities in Sydney, Adelaide and Brisbane are a vote of confidence, but they are long overdue."

Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre chief executive Peter King echoed Ferguson's calls, noting that infrastructure limitations were forcing the centre to turn away approximately 30% of business.

"The challenge for us remains that we are using our facilities at 100% and we need more space," he said. "It's the same story in Sydney. They're building new facilities, which is great, but they have a compromised footprint and can't expand," he later explained.

Melbourne Convention Bureau chief executive Karen Bolinger said more recognition was needed to build the profile of business events and help to rally more funding and investment.

"Business events is the least recognised industry and yet we bring in millions of dollars each year," she said. "Events are big business not just for economic wealth, but for lasting opportunities."

MCEC is planning to add a 12,500 sqm extension to its facilities in 2015, subject to government planning approval. The decision is expected in May.

Email the Travel Weekly team at traveldesk@travelweekly.com.au

martin ferguson

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