How the local meetings & events industry is going global

This month's theme of 'Think Global, Act Local' exemplifies a trend from both our speakers and our clients towards thinking beyond the typical geographic boundaries of Australia. It's a trend in flux, with benefits flowing both ways and influenced by a myriad of factors - the new world order of instantaneous information allows us to import and spread new ideas and new tools, while the fluctuating Australian dollar changes the balance of how we prioritise real-world commerce.

To dig deeper into this trend, we spoke to our senior consultant Jane Rowland-Smith.

Q: What is the most significant trend towards globalisation in the meetings and events industry in Australia?

A: In the past Australian conferences have almost exclusively booked local venues. Now there's a strong trend towards international locations. Even MEA (Meetings & Events Australia) are taking their 2014 conference to Kuala Lumpur.

Q: What is it that makes overseas locations suddenly more attractive.?

A: The strong Australian dollar is definitely making it easier, but that's not the whole story. Going global can create wider opportunities for both delegates and organisers, forge new networks and build your international profile. By opening up conferences in international locations you're exposed to a greater variety of commercial environments which can give you new insights to apply at home.

Q: How did this trend begin?

A: There are three main factors: Globalisation, the spread of the internet and Australia's growing influence in South-East Asia and the world. The internet has enabled a new way of thinking, the free movement of ideas is no longer constrained by geographical borders. By leveraging technology and a commitment to educational innovation, the events and meetings industry has transformed into a true global village. Whether by travel or by video conferencing, it's now possible to source international speakers for local events (and vice versa!) without anyone ever having to leave their home country. Similarly, the ease of publishing provided by the internet makes it easier for us to keep track of visiting international speakers - who we can then book at reduced rates for local clients.

Q: Why is it that this trend is only now starting to emerge?

A: As David Thomas, recently shared with the Meeting and Events National Conference, it's somewhat to do with a slowing of growth in the local sector while the demand for these services is booming internationally, specifically in countries that have not typically been destinations for these types of events in the past. The meetings & events industry in Australia has only grown 2% - 3% in the last year, which is fine, but the BRIC nations are all seeing huge growth.

  • 20% increase in China
  • 23% increase in India (tipped to DOUBLE within the year!)
  • 20% increase in Brazil
  • 17% in Russia

Q: How does this provide opportunities for local meetings & events businesses?

A: By definition, the BRIC nations are emerging markets for meetings and events. They have huge growth, but lack expertise. Australia is well within the sphere of influence for these countries and we have an enormous wealth of local skill and knowledge that can be applied internationally. Now is the time to be creating strategically important relationships within these emerging markets.

Q: Doesn't this trend come at the expense of local business?

A: Not at all! These are Australian conferences with predominantly Australian delegates who are meeting to discuss Australian business. The demand for Australian speakers who understand our unique business conditions will grow enormously and because these speakers will now have a larger international profile, the demand for their services will increase globally.

Q: Who are the leading proponents of the "Think Global, Act Local" movement?

A: Well Anders Sorman-Nilsson (featured in this month's ONews) and David Thomas, but Dare Jennings brought the most Australian of clothing brands (Mambo) to a global market. There's also Peter Baines, who leveraged his work on the Australian police force and turned it into a career specialising in global disaster management. 

Check out our Global Gurus We Love feature for more!

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