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The Melbournian Way: How Melbourne became the Business Events Capital of Australia

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■ ADAPTABILITY:  the Magic Word

 

A wise man once said “it is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” There has not been an era better suited to demonstrate the legitimacy of such testimony than the modern century. “Adaptability”, indeed, has been the key word in the business world since the global financial crisis shook up the world’s economic system. The advanced and emerging economies alike have dreadfully suffered in the aftermath of the crisis and frantically tried to measure up to the newly formed economic norms through adjusting to the changing business environment. The business events industry is perhaps one of the most vulnerable sectors to changes in the economic context as it is highly dependent upon the financial health of the overall economy; thus, the adaptability of a business events destination to the shift in external factors often mirrors its capability to achieve sustainable growth.

There are quite a handful of business event destinations which have carried out innovative solutions to weather through the consequences of the on-going financial issues such as increased competition; however, Melbourne has definitely outshined its competitors through implementing its own version of “austerity measures” in the process of adjustment to the ever changing dynamics of the global economy. The basic principles of its development and growth strategies appear to be reasonably straightforward: accurately analyze the current market trend; investigate the emerging consumer needs; and fortify its own set of assets and strengths to accentuate the competitive advantage.

 

■ MELBOURNE CONVENTION BUREAU:

 

Strategic direction to maintain the prosperity in the increasingly competitive business environment and enduring the unpredictable economic climate

The above three fundamental principles are cross-sectorally applied in Melbourne’s business events industry. The key stakeholders of the industry – the official destination sales and marketing arm, the largest convention and exhibition venue, and the oldest and most noted business events exhibition in the city – are some of the most enthusiastic practitioners of the aforementioned principles. Most of all, Melbourne Convention Bureau (MCB) which recently changed the name of the organization from Melbourne Convention and Visitors Bureau to the current title is the classic representative of those implemented “the Melbourne way”.

MCB is a not-for-profit organization which promotes the city as a world class business events destination to the national and international audiences. The bureau has an extensive circle of members both in the private and public sectors such as the Victorian State Government, the City of Melbourne, Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Center just to name a few. The primary activities of MCB are categorized to the following five areas: Marketing and Communications; Sales and Government Partnerships; Corporate Services; Incentive Sales; and Business Development.

 

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(Source: http://www.melbournecb.com.au/)

Rebranding: Changes in the managerial direction to pursue the economic efficiency

The bureau’s decision to rename itself was made as part of the organization’s rebranding strategies and an effort to declare its commitment to the shift in the managerial direction. The new brand dignifies the key role of the bureau, which is to attract business events to the city as well as the state, while emphasizing the fact that the bureau is solely responsible for the procurement of business events and is no longer associated with leisure tourism. MCB’s rebranding strategy not only aligns with its vision, mission and values as one of the world’s leading convention bureaux but clearly reflects the economic constraints caused by the financial crisis. Such managerial approach would allow the organization to capitalize on its resources through targeting lucrative markets and solely focusing on pursuing them rather than distributing its attention and resources to go after the mass general.

An example of MCB’s selective business strategy can be also found in its changes to international offices. The bureau recently changed its representation in North America: Mondotels, which had represented Melbourne in a sales capacity for the past 14 years, was replaced by Myriad Marketing, international travel marketing firm with the expensive experience in the BTMICE industry. And two dedicated MCB staff were appointed within Myriad Marketing in order to pursue the North American market in a more efficient and collaborative manner. MCB also carried out critical changes to the offices in Asia such as closing the Hong Kong offices and placing additional staff in Shanghai to focus on the Chinese market

 

Organizational Restructuring: Changes in the marketing approach to reflect on the market demand

MCB went through an organizational restructure at the end of last year, and the primary purpose of the strategy was to better communicate and engage with the members at all levels while acknowledging them of their critical role in the development of Melbourne’s MICE industry. The Marketing and Communications department was renamed Commercial Partnerships in the course of the organization restructure process. The new Commercial Partnerships department is responsible for marketing, communications, strategic alliances, membership, the Melbourne Meetings + Events Services and events including the Asia-Pacific Incentives & Meetings Expo (AIME). In addition, the Business Development and Convention Sales department launched a dedicated research team to validate the feasibility of the bureau’s business strategies and tactics and reinforce the efficiency of its overall activities.

MCB effectively created an environment in which it can actively monitor and promptly respond the emerging market demands throughout the organizational restructure process. The internal market needs are now screened on a continual basis through an improved communication channel, the Commercial Partnership department, and the external industry trends and market demands are thoroughly assessed and taken into consideration when strategic decisions are made by the research team of the Business Development and Convention Sales department.

 

Melbourne Convention District: Maximizing the value of the preexisting assets

MCB designated a 4-km wide area along the Yarra River from the docklands in the west to the sporting precinct in the east, and surrounding the city centre from the arts precinct in the south to the Carlton Gardens in the north as “Melbourne Convention District” in February 2013. The heart of this vibrant cosmopolitan city was branded as the convention district to draw business events planners, and evidently there is an exhausting list of conference facilities, accommodation options, tourist attractions, world renowned restaurants and other hot spots in the newly designated area, Melbourne Convention District, thanks to the compact nature of Melbourne.

Unlike the Asian counterparts that have recently carried out a number of lavish infrastructure development projects, the bureau has raised the destination awareness of Melbourne and its appeal by simply branding an area with the high density of the MICE infrastructure as a special district for the business event. In other words, MCB has capitalized on its preexisting resources and maximized the value of the assets in possession through employing an effective marketing scheme.

 

Melbourne IQ: Synergy effect

07Another example of MCB’s effort to capitalize on its assets is its new positioning campaign, “Melbourne IQ”. The knowledge-based industries in education, biotechnology, advanced manufacturing and design have been primary contributors to Melbourne’s economy, and the city has earned the reputation as a leader in knowledge and innovation over the past years. The bureau has collaborated with the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre and the State Government of Victoria to launch the Club Melbourne Ambassador Program, which brings together the Melbournian professionals in medicine, science, business and industry dedicated to promote Melbourne as an innovative knowledge city and desirable business events destination.

MCB has specifically targeted the international associations markets through working with the Club Melbourne Ambassadors as well as Invest Victoria, the City of Melbourne, and the leading universities to showcase the city’s intellectual capability and expertise in its deliverables, and in doing so the bureau has not only taken advantage of the predominant industries of the city to position Melbourne as a premier intellectual business events destination but produced synergy effects through providing the platform for the city’s knowledge-based industries to flourish and sustain the competitive edge.

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■ MELBOURNE CONVENTION AND EXHIBITION CENTER:

 

Environmentally, Socio-culturally and Economically Sustainable business practices to reflect on its organizational value and the market demand

If there is one word to describe the core value of the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Center (MCEC), that would be “sustainability”. The entire array of business practices of the MCEC clearly demonstrates its commitment to the environmental, socio-cultural and economic sustainability. The MCEC, which is now the most versatile MICE facility in Australia, started off as an exhibition center in 1996. In spite of its humble beginning, the center has become the trend setter in innovation and sustainability in the Asia-Pacific region. Today the MCEC annually hosts more than 1,000 events; welcomes 250,000+ guests including 21,000 international delegates to business events, and generates approximately $62 million event-related revenue per year. The center is also a major job creator in the region and a significant contributor to the local economy.

Economic Sustainability

The need for a purpose-built convention facility emerged in early 2000s, and in response to the surge in the market demand, the government reached a consensus to develop a world class convention center on the banks of the Yarra River as a catalyst for commercial redevelopment of the riverfront precinct. The convention center was designed to be fully integrated with the exhibition center and reinforces the competitiveness of the preexisting facility. The construction project of a convention center, in fact, was carried out as part of the State Government’s precinct redevelopment scheme, and the State and the City injected $370 million and $43 million respectively to implement the project.

The State Government involved the private sector players through the PPP arrangements to be part of the development project to secure the sufficient financial resources and expertise in order to ensure the commercial success of the initiative; as a result, a private consortium committed $93.2 million and obtained the development rights of the precinct in return. This PPP project had the largest private to public sector investment ratio for a public infrastructure development PPP scheme in Australia at the time. The government’s approach to building a state-owned facility operated by a privately owned firm also introduced a range of opportunities by leveraging synergies.

Environmental Sustainability

The MCEC has represented leadership in innovation and environmental sustainability since its inauguration. A broad range of environmental factors was taken into consideration and various innovative designs were adopted throughout the construction process. The MCEC, the first 6 Star Green Star rated center in the world and accredited Silver by EarthCheck, has won a number of awards due to the highly praised green initiatives and continues to be the benchmark for the industry counterparts. In addition, the MCEC, the first center in Australia to offer free Wi-Fi services, is equipped with the latest technology and has led by example to raise industry standards in communication technology. The center is currently planning on investing $30 million over the next five years to retain technology leadership.

 

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Socio-cultural Sustainability

The MCEC’s dedication to environmental sustainability does not end with building a green facility and operating it in an eco-friendly way. The center has fulfilled its social responsibilities through contracting local food suppliers such as farmers, producers and winemakers conducting sustainable practices. The kitchen team at the MCEC visits the F&B suppliers across the State of Victoria and hand pick the contractors, in doing so the MCEC supports the local businesses and provides sustainably grown and/or produced ingredients to create tailor-made, authentic Australian dishes to cater to the individual consumer needs. The center also runs an F&B blog, “the Farm to the Fork”, to give the potential clients the insight into the catering process from purchasing the ingredients to creating innovative recipes.

 

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(Source: http://fromfarmtofork.net.au/)

 

■ ASIA PACIFIC INCENTIVES AND MEETINGS EXPO:

 

The Key Words of AIME 2013 – Innovation and Education

Along with the MCB and the MCEC, the Asia Pacific Incentives & Meetings Expo (AIME) has significantly contributed to the advancement of Melbourne’s MICE industry. AIME, owned by the MCB, is the city’s most productive and long-standing meetings and incentives show. The AIME is currently operated by Reed Travel Exhibitions (RTE), the world’s leading exhibition organizer, and is one of RTE’s IBTM portfolios: Global Exhibition for Incentive, Business Travel, and Meetings (EIBTM), Gulf Incentive, Business Travel and Meetings (GIBTM), Americas Incentive, Business Travel and Meetings (AIBTM), China Incentive, Business Travel and Meetings (CIBTM) and AIME. RTE is a business unit of Reed Exhibitions, which operates more than 500 events in 39 countries covering 44 industry sectors, and has a track record of successfully managing a range of business events worldwide. The AIME, celebrated the 21st anniversary in February 2013 at the MCEC, has annually brought a number of associations and event planners from all around the world to the capital of the State of Victoria since its inception.

 

 Innovation – technology

The AIME has carried on its legacy of innovation and productivity for the past 21 years, and its innovative nature came in full force this year. A broad spectrum of new initiatives was delivered to reflect on the latest trends and emerging consumer needs in the industry, and some of the most fundamental themes of AIME 2013 were “innovative technology” and “education”. The AIME team recognized the growing demand amongst the business events professionals for opportunities to browse the state-of-art technology available in the market and learn effective ways to reap the harvest. The team took an action through launching brand new initiatives to measure up to the market demand, and the details of the initiatives are as follows.

  • Visitor Appointment Diaries: the AIME has provided electronic appointment diaries to arrange pre schedule appointments for the first time in its history. The diaries were previously offered to hosted buyers only but made available to all attendees this year.
  • The Future Events Experience: the latest ground-breaking technology and innovations for the MICE industry were showcased and discussed with live demonstrations and presentations at a designated area on the show floor
  • AIME mobile concierge: each attendee was given with a mobile number to text inquiries ranging from the floor navigation, the topic of the upcoming education sessions and the information on the exhibitor of interest to receive an instant response
  • AIME mobile application: a custom-designed mobile application for the AIME attendees to access all the information they may need prior to the show and/or on-site. The app provides the complete list of exhibitors, the program guide, the pre-scheduled appointment diary, and the floor map of the venue. In addition, additional networking opportunities are provided via the access to social media conversations

 

Education – added value

The new initiatives for AIME 2013 also include an expanded education program which was launched in an attempt to provide the exhibitors and delegates with added value to maximize the productivity of their exhibition activities. The two-day education program was categorized to two parts with 16 sessions presented by noted industry figures, experts and speakers. The sessions were followed by heated discussions led by the presenters on a broad range of topics and issues related to the industry. The following is the full list of the education program.

 

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(Source: https://www.aime.com.au/)

Over the past few years Melbourne has marked its territory in the MICE industry in the Southern Hemisphere, and the growth of the industry in the city seems to have gained momentum. The cohesive development strategies adopted by the primary stakeholders, the MCB, the MCEC and the AIME, have played a major role in the achievement. These organizations, which are major contributors to the development of Melbourne’s business events industry, have implemented “the Melbourne Way” to accurately analyze the external factors which trigger considerable changes to the business environment; determine the current market trends and emerging consumer needs; examine the internal factors (i.e. weaknesses and strengths); and fulfill the market demands through providing tailored products and services in order to fortify their own set of assets.

Each organization has employed a range of initiatives based on the comparable approach to accomplish the individual objectives, and in the process of implementation, some of the initiatives were inevitably integrated and/or intertwined with the plans simultaneously carried out by one another. Consequently, the organized efforts of the abovementioned key players have resulted in achieving the destination competitiveness of Melbourne and continued to reinforce the city’s sustainable competitive advantage against its counterparts in the Asia Pacific region.

 

 

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