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Australian meeting industry leaders remain optimistic about the future

In a year book-ended by the twin tragedies of 9/11 and the Bali bombings, the leaders of Australia’s meetings, incentive and exhibition associations…

In a year book-ended by the twin tragedies of 9/11 and the Bali bombings, the leaders of Australia’s meetings, incentive and exhibition associations remain upbeat about the future. In the lead up to the region’s largest industry event, AIME 2003, the 11th AsiaPacific Incentives and Meetings Expo, they provide their views on the state of the meetings industry.

Ms Jenny Lambert, Chief Executive of the Meetings Industry Association of Australia (MIAA), remains optimistic and notes that conference activity reflects the wider economic picture.

The general view is that the association market is continuing to hold up very well. Having said that, all that basically means is that the events are going ahead, although going ahead with substantial numbers, said Ms Lambert.

Certainly there are some question marks as to whether delegate numbers are meeting expectations. However, all in all, everybody is pretty optimistic about the association market.

Associations such as MIAA have an important role to play in developing the industries they represent. Ms Lambert is particularly excited by a recent lobbying effort by the MIAA and such other organizations as the Association of Australian Convention Bureaux (AACB) and the Business Events Council of Australia (BECA) to establish a federal business events corporation.

We think a business events corporation would be a very step forward. It would mean that the promotion internationally at a federal level would come out from under the umbrella of the ATC, where it is currently a very small slice of the pie, and be given a much larger prominence to promote business events and the importance of business events.

Another issue of concern to the MIAA is airline capacity, which has the effect of limiting growth both in domestic meetings and international conventions and congresses coming to Australia.

That’s probably having the most profound effect on our industry at the moment, said Ms Lambert. Whatever happens with the airlines has a major impact on our industry.

Graeme Selby, President of the Exhibition & Event Association of Australia (EEAA), supports the view that while some corporates may be nervous about the future, it is tinged with the perception that the best is yet to come.

There is certainly a sense of caution in the marketplace. What we have seen is some evidence that companies, whilst they are continuing to support exhibitions, might be temporarily reducing the levels of their commitment.

I think they’re appreciative of the exposure they get at these events and they see them as quite accountable in uncertain times but like many companies they’re watching their bottom line and may be approaching exhibitions in a more cautious way than they might have in the past, said Mr Selby.

I think organisers with strong, well-established events have been less affected than those that might be at the margins. If any components of our industry have been impacted, it might be those lesser shows where some exhibitors feel that if they don’t participate, it’s not going to have a huge impact on their sales and marketing exercises. At times like this, they tend to remain with the mainstream events.

Exhibitions, like any marketing medium, can be cyclical. And exhibitions do reflect the industries they represent. Personally, however, I feel very positive about the future of exhibitions.

The creation of the Incentive Marketing Association (IMA) from the AustralAsian Incentive Association (AIA) marks the beginning of an exciting period for the industry body.

Virginia Trautwein, Regional Chairman of the Incentive Marketing Association, said the IMA’s launch has been well accepted with a membership base that now concentrates on practitioners who design, administer and reward incentive programs.

There are some suppliers in the industry who weren’t sure they fitted into the scenario but they now realise they do. said Ms Trautwein.

The newly-reformed association is leaner and refocused and is working hard to create real business benefits for members. Member accreditation and continuing education are important aspects of the association.

The industry is growing and IMA represents the industry well, said Ms Trautwein.

EEAA, MIAA and IMA will each run educational seminars at AIME 2003 at the Melbourne Exhibition Centre, 18 & 19 February.

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