Business events are important contributors to Australia’s visitor economy. However, measuring their value is challenging because events:
Australia’s long-term strategy for the visitor economy, THRIVE 2030, notes that having relevant, robust and timely data is critical for growth. It underpins good decision-making, business growth and investor confidence.
In the October 2022 Budget, the Australian Government announced $2 million in funding for Tourism Research Australia (TRA) to include business events measurements in national and international datasets.
TRA’s Business Events Data Project will provide clarity around the business events sector. It will help businesses segment and quantify visitor types and their behaviours, and through that target repeat or additional visitation. It will also support governments to make decisions about business event targeting and any related support.
Business events tend to attract high-yield domestic and international travellers. High-yield travellers, relative to the total visitor pool, spend a comparatively high amount on accommodation, food, recreation services and experiences, making a valuable economic contribution.
In addition to direct expenditure, business events add value through their indirect contribution. They facilitate the exchange of ideas, concepts, systems and products, and create new networks and opportunities. These then add economic benefit by:
Business travellers also engage in other parts of the visitor economy. The rise of ‘bleisure’ tourism (where travellers extend a business trip for leisure) offers further potential.
The pandemic caused business trip expenditure to decline sharply. Businesses quickly shifted to videoconferencing to keep teams and clients connected and only slowly re-engaged with travel. Long after lockdowns ended at the end of 2022, travel for business remained the furthest from its pre-pandemic level of all travel categories. Overnight business trips were 21% lower and business day trips were 26% lower in 2022 compared to 2019 (Source: Tourism Research Australia).
Industry has been clear that better business events data is needed. Dr Leo Jago OAM, Chair, of the former Business Events Council of Australia, said: ‘The Government’s decision to in research to estimate the true economic value of business events addresses one of industry’s top priorities in post-pandemic recovery and growth towards 2030.’
The project requires several data sources and, therefore, the business event industry’s ongoing support will be crucial. Data sources will include:
TRA has started working with industry to implement the project. In January 2023, TRA introduced business events questions to the National and International Visitor Surveys. TRA consulted with the then Business Events Council Australia (BECA) and the Australian Association of Convention Bureaux (AACB) to design the questions before they were put into operation.
The new peak body representing the sector – the Australian Business Events Association (ABEA) – will be engaged in the next phases of the project. This phase will source data from venues, organisers, delegates and exhibitors.
Some initial business events data will be available this 2023–24 financial year, as TRA combines the various data collections to produce a representative data series. Further direct in-event data collection will be required after one year.
Stay up to date on the latest tourism policies, programs, research and broader Australian Government programs to support the visitor economy by subscribing to Austrade’s Visitor Economy News.
You can also visit the TRA website for more on tourism statistics, research, data and trends.