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[MCB CEO] Melbourne, the Business Events Capital of Australia

 “Melbourne, the Business Events Capital of Australia.”


This may come as a surprise to many, but as far as the business events industry goes the top of down under is not Sydney but Melbourne. Melbourne has the nation’s highest concentration of convention facilities located in the central business district. According to the Melbourne Convention Bureau’s 2012 Annual Report, the bureau secured 210 international and national business events for Victoria, estimated to inject $361 million into the Victorian economy over the coming years.

Since Karen Bolinger, Chief Executive Officer of MCB, took over in November, 2011, she has restructured the organisation and implemented a new strategic business plan in order to maintain the competitive advantage of Melbourne as the business events capital of Australia. She has also been responsible for carrying out new business initiatives such as the bureau’s positioning campaigns, Melbourne IQ, the Melbourne convention district brochure and a completely new brand for the organization.


GMI: Ms. Bolinger, please briefly introduce the Melbourne Convention Bureau to our readers. (i.e. the vision, mission and primary objectives of the org.)


The Melbourne Convention Bureau’s (MCB) sole function is to secure international and national conferences, incentive travel reward programs and other business events for the state of Victoria by working with associations, corporate organisations and event planners from around the world.

MCB is a full service bureau with staff and representation in five countries – Australia (Melbourne and New South Wales), China, Singapore, the United Kingdom and the United States – with an unequalled reputation for facilitating the delivery of high quality events. Fastened to its values of integrity, collaboration, innovation, leadership, accountability and excellence, MCB’s vision is to make Victoria one of the world’s most successful conference destinations and to generate billions of dollars for the state economy and local industry.


GMI: You and your team launched the new Strategic Business Plan which consists of six core projects in May last year. Tell us more about the plan. (e.g. the dev. strategies and procedures)


Over the last few years the economic and competitive landscape of business events has changed significantly, and as such, the strategic direction of MCB needed to change accordingly. Our Strategic Business Plan was developed in consultation with MCB stakeholders to address these changes and set our direction for the future to ensure we remain competitive globally.

We have recently adapted the Strategic Business Plan for the 2013/14 financial year which now centres around five strategic projects. These include: identify and target future business growth opportunities; develop robust relationships with actively engaged stakeholders; establish initiatives to support MCB’s long-term financial sustainability; develop initiatives to build the long term profile and positioning of Melbourne and MCB; and ensure MCB staff are actively engaged, professionally developed and appropriately resourced to deliver our desired outcomes.


GMI: One of the key activities the bureau carried out in 2011/12 was the introduction of the new positioning campaign, Melbourne IQ: The Intelligent Choice for Conferences. What exactly is the campaign all about? And what has the outcome been so far?


MCB’s positioning campaign, Melbourne IQ: The Intelligent Choice for Conferences, is aimed at the international association market and was designed to promote Victoria’s impressive expertise and track record in a diverse range of academic, scientific and professional endeavours, highlighting the state’s capabilities as an ‘intellectual capital’.

Melbourne’s engagement with research and innovation is often a major factor for securing events. International associations bringing conferences to Melbourne have indicated that the strength of their discipline’s local research community and the size of the wider academic community were major factors in their decision to choose the city as the host destination, so we wanted to capitalise on this and spread the message far and wide.

Melbourne IQ has been a great success, launched worldwide to great acclaim, clearly resonating with its intended target audience and attracting potential conferences to Australia.

Our vision is to make Melbourne one of the world’s most successful conference destinations and Melbourne IQ is a program that continues to ensure this remains a reality.


GMI: MCB recently unveiled Melbourne’s Convention District. How does this project differ from Darling Harbour Live: Sydney’s Convention, Exhibition and Entertainment Precinct Development Project? In other words, what are the competitive advantages of Melbourne’s convention district in comparison to its national and international competitors?


MCB unveiled the Melbourne convention district collateral to showcase that Melbourne has Australia’s highest concentration of conference facilities within a four kilometer radius, reinforcing the city’s status as Australia’s business events capital.

This four-kilometre-wide area follows the Yarra River from the cosmopolitan Docklands in the west to Melbourne’s world-renowned sporting precinct in the east, and encompasses the city centre from the arts precinct in the south to the magnificent Carlton Gardens in the north.

In the district there are 198,000 square metres of conference space and over 15,000 accommodation rooms conveniently located right in the heart of the city, which proves a major drawcard for planners looking for a destination to hold their next business event.

The convention district is also home to Melbourne’s most renowned and exciting attractions including the Melbourne Cricket Ground, Arts Centre, celebrated restaurants and of course the city’s iconic laneways – ideal for delegates who have some downtime during their stay.


GMI: You and your team launched a new incentive program, Melbourne Values You, to provide a range of complimentary offers for corporate and incentive event organisers instead of offering cash incentives like most convention bureaux in Asia Pacific. Are there any specific reasons behind such tactic?


MCB prides itself on working collaboratively with its members, so partnering with them on Melbourne Values You was the perfect way to still be able to provide excellent value to our clients. These offers include everything from free WIFI and hotel room upgrades, to reduced entry into attractions and on food and beverage packages. Our members’ eagerness to be involved in the program really shows their commitment to going above and beyond to make their client’s stay in Melbourne unforgettable.


GMI: Asia-Pacific Incentives & Meetings Expo (AIME) celebrated its 20th anniversary last year, and it has become one of the most prestigious events in the MICE industry in the Asia-Pacific region. What were the key objectives behind the development of AIME?


Held annually for the last 21 years, the Asia-Pacific Incentives & Meetings Expo (AIME) is the premier event in the region and the largest exhibition in Australia for the meetings, incentives, business travel and events industry. The AIME program consists of two days of business meetings, informal networking, and opportunities for industry knowledge development.

From the beginning, the primary objective of AIME has always been to provide a premier platform for businesses that market products and services to the meetings and incentives industry to meet with pre-qualified incentive and corporate travel buyers from around the world. .

The 2013 show brought together more than 747 exhibitors from over 48 countries, as well as 489 Hosted Buyers from 30 countries.


GMI: What are the relationship dynamics between the MCB, the owner of AIME, and Reed Exhibitions, the organizer of the exhibition? Have there been any challenges for two organizations to collaborate in an effective manner?


MCB and Reed Travel Exhibitions have a strong and successful working relationship. Every year, MCB works very closely with Reed to evolve the show, increase AIME’s profile internationally, and ensure it retains its status as the leading Asia-Pacific industry event. We highly value the exceptional professionalism and diligence that Reed brings to our partnership and look forward to working collaboratively with them each year to make AIME a resounding success.


GMI: What are the MCB’s future plans to develop the city’s business events industry and enhance its competitiveness? Do they align with the federal government’s business events strategy for Australia 2020?


MCB works extremely closely with its stakeholders, members, and local and state government to ensure Melbourne is constantly evolving to meet the needs of the ever-changing business events market. We also work collaboratively with Tourism Australia on a number of initiatives which ensures we are aligned with their 2020 strategy. Over the next five years, we will continue to further develop our business development activities in line with government priority sectors to deliver substantial bid wins for Melbourne.


23Ms. Bolinger has more than 20 years of industry experience. She has a strong background in branded sales and marketing across a diverse range of sectors, and has developed robust relationships within the business events industry.

Prior to commencing her role at MCB, Ms. Bolinger was the General Manager of Strategy and Marketing at the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW (RAS) and in addition, she has also held various roles at: Staging Connections Group Limited; the Sydney Convention and Visitors Bureau(SCVB); Sheraton on the Park, Sydney; and Renaissance Sydney Hotel.

Ms. Bolinger sits on the board of the BestCities Global Alliance and the Association of Australian Convention Bureaux (AACB).



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