Regional Australia is open for business

In the wake of the recent bushfires, regional tourism and events operators are making a strong statement to EAs organising events: they are open for business

Over the last five months Australia has been through an unprecedented and brutal bushfire season that has seen many homes and lives lost. As I’m writing this story, some fires are still burning and threatening the livelihoods of hard working Australians.

But, as the fires spread, so did their coverage on social and mainstream media. Images began circulating that drastically misrepresented the scale of the fires. One particularly famous image—which was shared by Rhianna—showed a satellite shot of Australia with vast areas covered in red and yellow infernos. The image turned out to be a visualisation of places where fire was recorded, which was then exaggerated by artist Anthony Hearsey, and is not a true image of the actual events.

These images—while well-intentioned—did damage to Australia’s brand. Many tourism and events operators in regional Australia lost up to 80 percent of their bookings for the year as a result of the viral images, even though they weren’t directly affected by the disaster.

In a time where these regions need visitors more than ever, they are suffering numerous cancellations. Now, the Australian government, destinations, operators and communities from across the country are sending a message to EAs across the nation: they are open for business.

Event Here This Year

As part of the Morrison Government’s $76 million National Bushfire Recovery Fund, Business Events Australia has launched a campaign to urge local EAs to bring their events to Australia’s fire-affected regions.

The campaign, Event Here This Year, is aimed at encouraging organisations to provide a much-needed boost to the local tourism industry by choosing Australia as the destination for their business events. Federal Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham said business events are crucial to the tourism industry, which is the lifeblood of many regional communities affected by the fires.

“This campaign is a call to all of those Australian businesses and organisations out there who are yet to book in meetings, their annual conference or exhibitions, to rally behind our tourism industry and choose Australia for their event this year,” Minister Birmingham said.

“The sector desperately needs our help to protect local jobs and help communities get back on their feet.”

Bureaux: voices from the regions

Destinations from across the country are falling into line with Business Events Australia’s message, promoting their regions and offering information for event planners looking to lend their support.

The Association of Australian Convention Bureaux, headed up by CEO Andrew Heibl, has expressed their support for the campaign, and is reaching out to EAs as well.

“The business events industry will play an integral part in rebuilding Australia’s visitor economy this year,” their statement reads.

EAs can speak to a destination’s Bureau directly to get up-to-date information on what experiences and services their regions have on offer.

NSW: Book a trip to NSW now

Destination NSW, the lead government agency for tourism and events in the state has come forward urging EAs and event managers to ‘book a trip to NSW now’ in their latest release.

“The majority of the state, including Sydney, South Coast, North Coast, the Hunter Valley and Blue Mountains, is now welcoming visitors,” the statement reads.

“When visitors stay local and buy local, it not only provides a financial boost to these areas but significantly boosts community spirit.”

Destination NSW has also released a comprehensive breakdown of venues by destination,

EAs’ events directly support affected communities

EAs organising business events in regional Australia are important for areas recovering from the bushfires for a number of reasons:

Weekday revenue
Tourism businesses in regional areas rely on weekend trips and holiday periods for the bulk of their tourism business. However, business events inject money and support into these areas on weekdays and during off peak times, creating a steady flow of income for communities that need it.

High yield
Due to the size of large company conferences, meetings and conventions, business events represent a high yield for regional operators. Where a family getaway brings five people, a company conference will bring 100—boosting the local economy and supporting the surrounding businesses.

While a business event might only last a few days, the impact it has on that community lasts much longer. As delegates come home and tell their family, friends and colleagues about their experience at a destination, more people are likely to visit and support that community.

South Australia: help them out, #BookThemOut

South Australia was hit hard by the bushfires, with popular destinations like Adelaide Hills and Kangaroo Island suffering significant damage. In response, the South Australian Tourism Commission (SATC) launched a campaign, #BookThemOut, to encourage visitors to the affected areas.

SATC Chief Executive Rodney Harrex said spending money in the two regions will put money directly into the pockets of those affected by the disaster and will immediately help relieve the stresses on the community.

“Help them out, #BookThemOut is a strong message that help the Adelaide Hills and Kangaroo Island remain amazing, unique holiday destinations with incredible consumer experiences, and these regions need tourism to thrive and survive,” Mr Harrex said.

Victoria: pledging support

The Victorian Government and Business Events Victoria (BEV) are throwing their support behind businesses impacted by the recent bushfires in East Gippsland and North East Victoria with a pledge initiative.

According to BEV, over 115 organisations have pledged to hold their events, meetings and conferences in the bushfire-affected regions. Through the program, the body hopes to highlight the amazing set of venues and experiences still on offer.

“As the convention bureau for regional Victoria, BEV is well placed to assist businesses looking to support this program. We have the right contacts in the regions and can connect businesses to the venues that best suit their event needs,” BEV Executive Officer Chris Porter said.

The road to recovery for regional communities affected by these devastating fires is going to be a long one. But, EAs and event managers can help speed up the process. Planning a conference, retreat or meeting in affected areas will inject much-needed money, support and positive spirit where it’s needed most. And, despite what mainstream and social media might portray, the regions’ doors are wide open.