Tag Archives: China

Tourism and business events operators should realise that Australia’s first-world facilities, clean environment and friendly people collectively represent a magnificent advantage, says the MD of Tourism Australia.

Siteseer: You’re on record recently as saying that tourism is growing faster than the Australian economy. Does the same apply, in your view, to business tourism and the events industry?

John O’Sullivan: Australian tourism continues to go from strength to strength and is growing three times faster than the Australian economy overall. Our industry has a shared long-term goal to grow overnight visitor expenditure, currently at $97.1 billion, to more than $115 billion annually by the end of the decade as part of the Tourism 2020 plan. Business events are obviously a key contributor to the visitor economy – and for our long-term goals for growth, with the average traveller for business events spending three times as much as a leisure visitor.

All indications from our industry point to robust demand for Australia. In particular we know of a number of large incentive program [organisers] from China who have recently chosen Australia for their events, including NuSkin and Amway.

SS: Are you satisfied that aviation capacity is sufficient to meet demand for inbound business?

JOS: Aviation capacity is vital for an island nation like Australia. In fact it was identified that Australia’s international aviation seat capacity would need to grow by 40% to 50% and domesticwould need a 20% to 30% increase to achieve our Tourism 2020 targets. Already we’ve achieved 66% of the growth needed, tracking 10% ahead of the original forecast growth.

John O'Sullivan Sydney HarbourThis is a consequence of having a very strong aviation development focus – to increase capacity and services on existing routes and to support the introduction of new routes. We’ve seen significant aviation growth out of a number of markets, notably China, and the opening of new routes such as the recently introduced Singapore-to-Canberra services by Singapore Airlines, which help foster international business to the city.

SS: Do you believe Australian hotels and meetings facilities represent good value for money for local and international events and incentive organisers?

JOS: Yes, an Australian-held business event delivers above and beyond the expectations of planners, time and time again. Our industry’s ability to tailor-make itineraries and events, together with our exceptional facilities, unique wildlife and excellent food and wine combine to provide great value for money for incentive planners.

Alongside this, as part of the Tourism 2020 strategy, there is strong focus attracting tourism investment. Tourism Australia works in partnership with Austrade to this end, to ensure we have adequate accommodation and facilities in Australia to [cater for] the increasing numbers of international visitors to our shores.

SS: What, in relation to the MICE sector specifically, do you regard as some of TA’s most significant recent achievements? 

JOS: For the association market we’ve recently been highlighting Australia’s knowledge sectors and innovative people through our content strategy. And we’re seeing some great feedback on this from international buyers. We recently launched Australia Innovates, the magazine which brings these stories together, at IMEX America to strong interest. In the incentive space, we held our Dreamtime showcase in Adelaide in December 2015, hosting over 100 international business events buyers and media and demonstrating why there’s nothing like Australia for business events. The show was a great success, reaching over 25 million people through media coverage, and [generating] several confirmed pieces of business for Australia.

SS: The new International Convention Centre Sydney has been the subject of much publicity. How important is it for the industry and Australia generally?

JOS: The ICC Sydney, on track to open in December 2016, is significant and will assist in attracting future business events to Sydney and Australia. In fact it will be crucial to Australia’s business events future and help us to succeed, with its offering of the largest exhibition space in Australia and an international convention centre that can collectively host more than 12,000 delegates. The entire precinct has been revitalised with new retail and dining facilities, public spaces plus new hotels in the pipeline. That’s also going to generate huge benefit for Australia.

SS: You’re well-known for using social media successfully; how effective has this been, in your view, and what key lessons have you and your colleagues have learned in this respect that might be useful for events organisers?

JOS: We’ve successfully used social media to engage with the leisure travel market through Facebook, Instagram and Twitter along with WeChat and Sina Weibo.

John O'Sullivan 2015From an events perspective we’ve used social media for delegates to share their experiences of our events such as the Australian Tourism Exchange, for the leisure sector, and Dreamtime, for the business events sector, while also using it to share our news announcements from these events with delegates and a wider audience. LinkedIn, too, has been a great tool for business event [organisers] to share insights and information with stakeholders. The key thing we’ve learned is really about making the content relevant to the audience, and inspiring.

SS: There’s been much publicity recently (such as the hotels.com annual survey) about the stellar growth in China tourism. What do Chinese MICE travellers like best about Australia and what should operators be doing to engage them effectively?

JOS: They enjoy Australia’s beauty, in particular our natural environments and their proximity to urban centres. Australia’s seafood and wine, as well as the quality and variety of our food offering, are highly valued by Chinese travellers. Our wildlife, clear open skies and friendly people also appeal. Relationships are key in the China market. It’s important to invest the time and energy to develop these in order to operate effectively and grow your business.


As Managing Director of the nation’s global tourism marketing agency, John is responsible for driving Tourism Australia’s strategies to increase demand for Australian tourism experiences and grow the sector. John joined Tourism Australia in March 2014. He was previously Chief Operating Officer of Fox Sports, and has held executive positions with Events Queensland (Chief Executive) and Football Federation Australia (Chief Commercial Officer), as well as with the Sydney 2000 Olympic and Paralympic Organising Committee.

More info: www.tourism.australia.com


Cross-cultural pollination in a globalised world is ushering in a vibrant new era of communication. Here you’ll find ten tips to help you navigate new conversations when doing business in China. 好运 (Haoyun or good luck)

Guanxi first, business later

Be patient with Chinese companies. Good things come to those who wait, but only once trust has been established.

Be authentic . . .

Show your respect for your host’s success. Acknowledge their customs and hospitality, but remain authentic to your own roots. Many brands have failed to “look Chinese” when their own national heritage would play just fine.

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. . . but talk their language

Chinese people are increasingly well-travelled global citizens. However when it’s time to talk business on their turf, get yourself a specialist translator who understands your business and can potentially spot important communication nuances of which you may be unaware.

Think macro to micro

Chinese culture places the collective before the individual. Addresses are written province, city, district, block and gate number. Chinese put surnames first, and the year before the month and date. So think about the big picture first.

Highlight our common goals

When examining a picture, a western eye may see the deer before the forest, while a Chinese reader, steeped in eastern philosophy, may consider the complex harmony of nature. Your corporate communications should also consider the balance between personal need and shared benefit.

Read the signs

Chinese design is rich with symbolism. Numbers and colours have meaning. A single brush stroke can convey a lifetime of feeling. So ask a local expert to consider the hidden meaning of every element of your communication carefully.

Marks matter

Thinking of creating a Chinese version of your logo?

Chinese characters are pictograms that often reflect their natural origins. So consider their meaning and sounds beyond their literal translation.

The Chinese pronunciation of “Kerker Kerler” means “tastes good,” while Ikea and Carrefour have manipulated the pictograms of their logo to reflect their business purpose.

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Follow us on Weibo

The sophistication, prominence and adoption of Chinese social media and ecommerce far exceeds our usage in the west. Embrace the opportunities that WeChat, Weibo, Youku, Tengxun and a multitude of other platforms can bring to your business.

Mind your manners

Formalities and ceremony are still observed by many people. So don’t call your elders by their first name, be prepared for a time-consuming lunch and put some thought into your corporate gifts.

Be the change

China is not the China of twenty years ago. Tradition remains but cross-cultural influence is everywhere, particularly in Tier 1 cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. So don’t be afraid to try something new and move the conversation forward.

Find out more at bwdcreative.com.au.

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Events organisers and suppliers to the MICE sector who haven’t heeded China’s latest outbound tourism numbers or what its travellers ask for most commonly in hotels (free wifi and kettles) could miss out on revenue in a major way.

Young Couple ShoppingThat’s the key message, again, in Hotels.com’s latest Chinese International Travel Monitor, published last month. The fifth annual survey of its kind shows that despite a slowdown in the growth of Chinese overseas travel, 92% of travellers from the country plan to increase or maintain spending, and one-third plan to spend more on travel in the coming year.

A staggering 120 million Chinese travelled overseas in 2015, up from 117 million in 2014, the year when the milestone of 100 million was first passed. There were over a million (1,023,600) to Australia alone – up 22 percent on the previous year. And down under remains at the top of the Chinese traveller wish list for the third year in a row as the most desired destination to visit in the next 12 months.

A rough measure of the still-untapped potential of this market could be that only 5% of the 1.4 billion people in China hold passports, yet it’s already the top global spender on travel. The expenditure is expected to equal Finland’s GDP and exceed the size of the Greek economy in five years.

Chinese millennials – 18 to 35-year-olds – spend over a quarter of their income on travel. Two-thirds of travellers from China consider travel an essential part of life, and are prepared to spend nearly a quarter of their income on it.

Kettles and slippers

While the top requests in hotels by Chinese travelers were for free wi-fi and kettles in their rooms, requests numbers three and four were Chinese breakfast and slippers. However, one-size-fits-all perceptions of the Chinese as group tour travellers wanting only Chinese breakfasts and Mandarin translators are outdated, according to Abhiram Chowdry, Vice President and Managing Director APAC for Hotels.com.

“Our research shows that the industry needs to move decisively to develop new products and marketing strategies for the far more sophisticated Chinese travellers of today,” he says.

“An analysis of our research data has revealed that Chinese travellers fall into one of five travel personas [which] open the way for targeted marketing to attract these segments and cater to their specific needs.”

Read the report  here.


Hong Kong is overcrowded, often smoggy, clogged with traffic and nobody there gives a damn about the environment. Right?

Wrong actually. As travellers’ enthusiasm for green products and services grows unabated, more and more hotel and meetings facility operators in this beehive of a city are embracing environmental credentials to meet the expectations of MICE visitors – and help give the seven-a-half million inhabitants a vision of a sustainable future.

Swimming PoolThe autonomous Chinese territory is one of the most densely populated places on the planet. Yet, in addition to its other virtues, more local operators are promoting the fact that about three-quarters of it is countryside, with easily accessible walking trails and islands.

“Not far from the commercial district, as close as a five-minute cab ride, visitors can enjoy the silence of a country trail or take in the views of the harbour from a ferry to an outlying island,” says Gregory So Kam-leung, Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, writing in the South China Morning Post recently. “Few cities have dense urban and commercial districts within such easy reach of harbour and hillsides.”

Eaton example

One hotel property that’s proud of its sustainability credentials is the four-star Eaton, in the city’s Kowloon area to the north of Victoria Harbour. Last year it won a gold award in the Hong Kong Awards for Environmental Excellence (and other accolades), in recognition of its efforts to cut waste and source sustainable food.

Why? With 465 guest rooms and ten meetings and events venues, the Eaton has recognised that it makes good business (its occupancy rate is typically 80% to 90%) and environmental sense to make genuine efforts to be sustainable.

One noteworthy achievement is its investment in a drinking water purification system that removes bugs from H2O and allows glass bottles to be sterilised, refilled and reused and sealed in guest bedrooms. It’s already helped the hotel eliminate the use and disposal of 350,000 plastic bottles a year, says Environmental Officer Katrina Cheng (pictured below, right).

IMG_0536“Waste in a small territory like Hong Kong [1,100 square kilometres] is a big concern,” says Katrina. “It’s becoming an issue for hotel guests and MICE clients in particular expect us to acknowledge and do something about it.”

Shark’s fin soup, which represents a growing environmental issue across Asia, has been removed from the Eaton’s menus, which Katrina acknowledges has had some impact on the F&B business, but “it’s an important step for us”.

The hotel gets its seafood from sources that are reliably certified as sustainable and insists on buying Fair Trade products wherever possible. These feature in its “Green Meetings” package, offered standard with no premium, which includes “low-carbon menus,” “Fair Trade coffee breaks,” waste recycling and so on.

The list doesn’t end there. The hotel provides refillable dispensers in bathrooms, LED lighting, acoustic wall panels in bedrooms made from recycled materials and “low-carbon dining options”. Each year 300 staff volunteer for a beach clean-up day and other community service activities. “We all take it very seriously,” says Katrina.

Complimentary enticements

In addition to pushing its green credentials, the hotel seeks to add value to keep customers coming back, says Public Relations and Communications Manager Erica Chan (pictured above, left). Residents can enjoy complimentary walking tours of local shopping precincts like Temple Street and the Jade Market, take a free daily tai chi class and use on-the-house smartphones in every bedroom offering free mobile data, local calls and international calls to selected countries, says Erica.

There’s a roof-top outdoor pool and well-equipped gym, and an executive lounge arrangement, the “E Club,” aimed primarily at the business tourist sector, six restaurants and an alfresco bar. The E-Club guests are served free beers all day, free cocktails and canapes in the evenings, and can take their breakfast at an exclusive buffet in the lounge.

Executive Room“We’re in a great location three minutes’ walk from the Jordan subway station in Kowloon, which tends to offer a more authentic Hong Kong experience than Hong Kong Island which is more commercialised,” says Erica.

Ten function facilities

The ten function rooms include three ballrooms, one of which can accommodate up to 500. The hotel’s events business is roughly split between local companies and delegates from southeast Asian countries – Singapore in particular – as well as Australia and the UK, says Erica.

“We deal with a lot of pharmaceutical companies. They can be demanding customers but we like that; it’s a challenge and keeps everyone sharp.”

Though some critics of Hong Kong point to higher room rates than those in other southeast Asian nations like Cambodia and Vietnam, there’s much to recommend it, especially for shorter (two- to three-day) events, observe Erica Chan and Katrina Cheng.

As a business, financial and trading centre, Hong Kong is accessible to about half the world’s population via a flight of five hours or less. The public transport system is cheap and one of the best in Asia. Entry is hassle-free, with visa-free access for about 170 countries.

And finding the right venues at the right price is not difficult. Hong Kong has some 74,000 hotel rooms and tourism authorities expect another 10,000 to come on stream by 2017. That may explain why the number of overnight MICE visitors increased from 1.2 million in 2009 to 1.8 million in 2014, even though leisure tourism numbers have declined slightly in recent months.

E Club (2)Another drawcard, according to local journalist Yonden Lhatoo, writing in the South China Morning Post, is that Hong Kong is the safest city in the world, with a good, corruption-free police force. “The can-do spirit is for real,” he says.

Meetings packages from HKD 350 a day

Meetings packages at the Eaton Hotel including coffee breaks, break-out facilities, lunch and AV equipment start from around HKD 350 (USD 45) a day and the rack rate for the rooms is around USD 200.

For more information, go to hongkong.eatonhotels.com.

Eaton_eco-friendly purified water system


Hotel operators and events organisers who don’t actively encourage tourists from mainland China could miss out on the opportunity of the century, especially in the luxury and “super-luxury” end of the market.

That’s evident from this year’s Chinese International Travel Monitor, recently released by online booking giant Hotels.com.

One of the revelations in the 2015 edition, the fourth, of the annual report into China outbound tourism is the growing financial muscle of the top 10% of spenders.

On average they shell out RMB 13,800 (AUD 2,817) a day, more than four times the spend of the average Chinese outbound traveller. But the top 5% spend even more: an astonishing RMB 20,896 (AUD 4,265) a day – indicating the emergence of a “super-luxury” class of traveller.

Chinese couple reading map on trainHotels.com’s latest report is a reminder for countries like Australia to pull out all stops to accommodate Chinese travellers and tailor their services for this market, as the potential is huge,” says Katherine Cole, Regional Director, Australia, New Zealand & Singapore for Hotels.com.

Katherine does not exaggerate. According to a Bank of America Merrill Lynch forecast, outbound Chinese travellers could number 174 million in four years’ time, spending about US$264 billion annually. That compares with around 107 million travellers in 2014. The forecast revenue is roughly equivalent to the GDP of a developed country like Singapore. “Clearly, the Chinese dragon is still building steam,” says Abhiram Chowdhry, Vice President and Managing Director APAC for the Hotels.com brand.

Australia came out on top, for the second year in a row, as the most desired destination for Chinese travellers to visit in the next 12 months. Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane were named among the world’s top 10 cities they intend to visit.

Millennials’ growing influence

The report reveals the growing influence of Gen Y travellers, tech-savvy “millennials” aged 18 to 35. Fifty-nine per cent of hoteliers surveyed say they’ve experienced an increase in Chinese guestsaged 35 or under in the past year and they expect this trend to continue.

Meantime the use of mobile phones for planning and booking travel has skyrocketed. In the past 12 months, 80% of Chinese travellers used an online device including mobiles, desktops and laptops to plan and book, compared with only 53% last year.

The top three countries they actually visited last year were the US, Thailand and Hong Kong. The top 10% of spenders paid an average of 2,723 RMB (AUD556) per night on hotels alone.

Top 10 countries Chinese travellers say they would like to visit in the next 12 months 

Rank Country
1 Australia
2 Japan
3 France
4 Hong Kong
5 South Korea
6 US
7 Maldives
8 Germany
9 Thailand
10 Taiwan


To read the full report, visit www.CITM2015.com.

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In a world in which clients expect more and more, events industry professionals must stay connected to gain the insights they need to feed a winning strategy, says the General Manager of Business Events Australia. In this interview with the Siteseer, Penny Lion discusses the challenges and opportunities involved in selling Australia, the rise of China and the need, now more than ever, for meaningful communication.

Siteseer: How do you differentiate your marketing strategies from the rest of the world’s?

Penny Lion: It’s what brings us to work every day! We’re always trying to do something different. In this day and age the tourism business is so competitive, and within the business events sector it’s even more so because it’s high-yield and everybody wants their share. It’s also quite a fast-paced industry.

KI shot smallerSo if you bring out a brand-ad campaign or embark on a particular trade or marketing strategy, it’s not long before it gets noticed and followed. How do you manage that? For Tourism Australia the focus is always on what will make a difference for the customer, about thinking and knowing what it’s like to be an events planner, or a corporate or association congress decision maker. You’ve got to keep your ear to the ground and stay connected, and always deliver to their needs.

SS: Do you do that better than the opposition?

PL: I believe so, though we can always do better. Tourism Australia is widely seen as punching above its weight, and that applies to Australia in general. Our competitors at big trade shows come up to us and say they watch what we’re doing and think we do it extremely well, which is a great compliment.

Our work isn’t rocket science; we apply good old-fashioned business sense to what we do and in positioning Australia. Also, Australia is unique, though that word is often over-used. It has an incredible array of attractions.

Much of our job is to convert latent demand, because we pitch in at number one or two on everyone’s bucket list. From a corporate incentive point of view, coming to a long-haul destination is perceived to be problematic, and [there are factors like] lack of annual leave or other perceptions that make people wonder whether coming to Australia is the right thing.

SS: So how do you overcome the perception Australia is a long-haul destination, and an expensive one?

small bennelongPL: When you think about barriers to entry, time difference and cost are the things people obviously look at when they’ve got budgets and time frames to manage. But the key is always proving the business case, and we know Australia delivers and adds tremendous value. When events visitors get on the aircraft they may realise it’s not as onerous a journey as they’d first imagined. And once they’re here the experience is great. No one ever leaves Australia saying it was so far away. They go home saying it was the most memorable experience they’ve had.

That’s what we’re trying to deliver on, the emotional connect we’re looking for. We can’t change where we are.

SS: Do you think Australia unfailingly delivers a great experience?

PL: I do, across the board. It’s stating the obvious perhaps, but it’s a multi-destination country. People might come as first-time visitors to an event in Sydney, and connect with the Whitsundays. The next time they might go to Perth and Darwin. There are so many experiences, and they can have variety, time and again.

People are incredibly important in this equation, and Australians generally are down to earth, and we don’t over-promise and under-deliver. When business tourists get here they find we’re also people who don’t say no very often. We make it happen. Decision makers and competitors in the business events industry around the world see that, and it’s a big tick.

SS: You don’t believe there’s a perception that its infrastructure and hotels sometimes don’t match what Asia has to offer, for example?

09 Great Hall half modePL: I think what’s happening across China, in particular, is incredible. The size of their infrastructure – how can anybody really compete with that? But in Australia there’s been strong investment over the past few years. Hotels have been popping up, and they’re differentiated. They’re not all five-star. Some are quite unusual in the boutique experiences they offer. In Brisbane, for example, some of the new hotels are quirky, with beautiful artworks from local artists. It’s a different experience.

Beyond that every capital city has been building new infrastructure as part of our Tourism 2020 strategy, ensuring that, with the industry, we’re introducing additional dollar investment, more hotels and more air capacity. That’s been happening across the board. The convention centres, too, have been undergoing big improvements.

SS: Well nearly every major Asian city has or is building a congress centre. How challenging is it for Australia to lure business to our own?

PL: It’s not just every Asian city, it’s every city in the world. It’s seen as a high-yield sector. In Nigeria recently an incredible convention centre opened. Just about everybody now has one, and new infrastructure is constantly being created. Where I believe Australia does incredibly well is in the fact that we have outstanding convention facilities that are mostly within walking distance of city centres. Think about Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne; the facilities are in the heart of the city.

Darwin Convention CentreOne of my colleagues in America recently had to commute between a hotel in a city and its closest convention centre, and it took two hours each way. We don’t have that problem. Also, the food and beverage offering we have in our convention centres is outstanding, as are the AV and other services. You don’t get the same holistic services in many others around the world.

SS: Are you happy with the new Sydney convention centre that’s taking shape?

PL: Absolutely. It has attractions like open-air-events spaces, and again from a proximity-to-the-city aspect, it provides so many options.

SS: How can industry assist Tourism Australia in creating more awareness of the key selling points of our destination?

PL: Our job as a national tourism organisation is to promote Australia overseas, to increase consideration of the destination. But in the business-events space, decision makers need a lot more detail than those, for example, who might just be planning a holiday. The latter tend to do much of their own research. Decision makers and events planners are time-poor, so they need to be inspired and informed on a regular basis about what they can do in Australia.

Our job is to try to make it as easy as possible for them to do that. We assist by providing a lot of information on our website, digital comms and more.

What we need industry to do is feed us information. We’re always asking for what we call new news. If there’s a hotel that has a new rooftop space or brilliant new F&B menu, an event agency that’s come up with a new theme, or a production agency that has new AV technology that can be on-sold, or there’s a new city walking tour, we need to know.

Sydney ICC Hero shotWe’re encouraging industry to send such news to us regularly. It can be just news bites, a few sentences; it doesn’t always need to be well-crafted PR releases. Then we can pick up the phone and talk to people, and if it’s appropriate, push out to the international market. It’s a free PR service really!

SS: Is it hard to get that kind of communication happening?

PL: Yes, industry is busy. The tourism game is infamous for working hard. It’s not front of mind for them to consider new ideas for Tourism Australia. However some are very good about contacting us, and we have a member of our team who’s out and about and meets with industry and reminds them about what we’re looking for. And our newsletters remind people to stay in touch. It’s our job to make sure Australian industry know what we’re doing and how we can help them and their businesses if they are ready to market themselves internationally.

So that’s a takeout: contact us with information! Email me direct at plion@tourism.australia.com and my colleagues and I can follow up.

SS: Have you witnessed any significant change in business since the Australian dollar was closer in value to the US$?

PL: Our lead time for events is quite long, but if people want to come here, and they did this even when our dollar was stronger, they make it happen. If they had ten thousand dollars to spend, they’d come to Australia with that amount. They mightn’t have done all they wanted, but they still came. Now their ten thousand dollars goes further.

It’s not within our control though. There’s nothing we can do about [fluctuating currency]. We’ve just got to sell the emotional side of the experience.

Cape Tribulation 2SS: Is Tourism Australia focusing more on China as a prime source of business for the short and long term?

PL: It’s not the only focus but it is a key one. We’re working towards our target of delivering more than $115 billion in international tourism expenditure by the year 2020, and China will contribute $13 billion of that. When you think about all the countries whose people travel here, it’s a major chunk. You have the rise of the middle class in China, we’re the closest Western destination, and there’s hardly a time difference. Yet it’s our landscape, fresh air and blue skies they love most.

Bear in mind though that it’s not just Australia that’s looking to China. Every other destination now has offices there. We have a great team of experts who work in that market, and good research on the customer to inform our activity.

SS: That clean and green aspect, how important is it?

PL: If you travel to Shanghai or Beijing, what can look to be a foggy day is often smog. We had a group from China in Sydney recently and hosted them for lunch at a venue with a city aspect. They couldn’t believe it was winter; it was a balmy nineteen degrees, the sun was shining and they couldn’t get over how clear the air was. They loved it.

I should add that the maturity of Chinese business events travellers today is remarkable. I remember sitting down some years ago with a group when they first came to Australia. They didn’t have much English and didn’t really understand our country. Fast forward and they’re all speaking English, and they “get” us. The connection seems to have happened fast, and it represents a fabulous opportunity.

IHCSun 111SS: Do Chinese business events visitors increasingly have expectations about services tailored to their needs, like menus in their own language?

PL: This is something Australian businesses should be thinking about. It’s going to be a key market, and therefore a key consideration is providing information in language. Visitors want to turn on the TV in their hotel room and get Mandarin or Cantonese programs, or simply have a Chinese option on the breakfast buffet. Having said that, I don’t think the Chinese expect quite as much as they used to. They seem to be more accepting of Western ideas, accepting that in Australia you’re not going to get much of a true Chinese experience. That’s why they travel.

Language is key to culture, however, and while Tourism Australia works in so many markets, we knew we needed a dedicated website written in Mandarin and hosted within China to ensure an excellent user experience. This is key to communicating effectively with the Chinese market; we’ve even factored in how they digest and navigate web pages.

SS: What other significant changes are happening in the industry in your view?

PL: I speak to a lot of people on a regular basis, and they’re telling me how different the landscape is. It used to be that a convention bureau might put together a simple proposal about what hotel product might be available and what the centre space might be. Now, clients expect more, much more. We have to factor in, for example, what priority sectors are important, or how associations overseas can align with experts in science or health.

Four Mile Beach Pt DouglasThere’s more emphasis today on connecting people. We have strong pillars for Australia in our people, products and places. That’s so important for industry, to make sure it isn’t just about offering logistics. Increasingly, research shows that, from an events perspective, business people want to connect and understand more about Australia.

That means when they come here they don’t want to be stuck in conference rooms all the time, they want to go out and experience the country and its people. Our industry has to get better at putting together programs that do that. The point is, how do they go a step above and differentiate themselves from New Zealand, Singapore, Fiji and elsewhere?

Moreover part our job [in relation to] industry is to be able to say, if you’re unsure, particularly if you’re delving into the international marketplace, get in contact, because we have insights into what works and what doesn’t, and how you can nuance messaging for international markets.

Even if they’re doing a test-and-learn into a market they’re thinking about working in, we can provide platforms for industry to attend as participants, such as our showcases, or events like the IMEX trade shows. That’s really important too.


As General Manager of Business Events Australia, a division of Tourism Australia, Penny Lion is responsible for raising awareness of her country as a business events destination and helping persuade decision makers to visit it. In her previous role she was General Manager for UK/Europe at corporate events management agency CI Events. She has been in her current position at Tourism Australia – a government authority tasked with the promotion of the country as an international tourism destination – since 2010.

Penny vertical