Tag Archives: Tourism Australia

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


Soon after Flavie Thevenet first visited Cambodia from her native France more than 20 years ago, she walked past a family eating lunch outside their home on the outskirts of the capital, Phnom Penh. It was obvious that they were desperately poor, yet the family insisted she share their food, and she accepted.

Flavie, pictured below, reflects on that small act of generosity often. She’s experienced such unconstrained hospitality many times over the years – more than a decade in total – that she’s lived in the southeast Asian nation and in her current role as country manager for the tour operator Khiri Travel.

IMG_9814Though still poor and relatively underdeveloped, Cambodia has moved on and is recovering well from its nightmarish past, says Flavie, who loves the country. “People here want to move forward,” she says enthusiastically over coffee at a Siem Reap café. “So many have started from absolutely nothing, having been through terrible times in their history, and they’re making real progress, as you can see in the standards of many businesses and hotels.”

Flavie is passionate, too, about responsible tourism, which means that Khiri Travel, which is active in supporting local communities (tagline: people, planet, profit) is proving to be an excellent fit for her.

Typical of the company’s embrace of sustainability is its pledge this year to donate to youth development 2.5% of its revenue from new educational travel group bookings visiting southeast Asia. It also supports Khiri Reach, a charity to help disadvantaged people through community development, conservation and other projects.

Established in 1993, Khiri is headquartered in Bangkok and specialises in tailored inbound tours to Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Sri Lanka and the Maldives with staff support in each: 14 in the capital Phnom Penh and four in the smaller city of Siem Reap, which is close to the Twelfth-Century Angkor Wat temple complex, below, the largest religious monument in the world.

One of its key offers is incentive experiences – at a wide variety of price points – ranging from community-based tourism and city escapes to country “immersions” throughout Indochina.

angkor-wat-3-1566714Each incentive trip that Khiri people organise is customised, and many are innovative, Flavie says. They can range from a trip on a private jet to a wedding in a preferred hotel, dinner on a private island, afternoon tea in a royal palace and a private caving expedition in the karst mountains of Vietnam.


A great attraction for organisers on strict budgets is that Cambodia is, in the parlance of some experts and enthusiasts, fantastically cheap. As the 1.5 million tourists who visited it last year know, this is reflected in hotel prices. According to the most recent hotels.com index that compares room rates internationally, Cambodia topped the list of cheapest hotel destinations for Aussie travellers in 2014, at an average nightly rate of AUD73, followed by Vietnam at AUD91 and Thailand at AUD113.

“The potential for incentives is wonderful here because as a MICE destination it’s really affordable as well as being authentic,” adds Flavie. “It’s not commercialised, it’s exotic and has great history; what’s more you can feel comfortable in Cambodia, it’s safe and easy to find your way around.”

IMG_9885Day on the lake

To experience a Khiri Cambodia adventure first-hand, I accompany Flavie and her colleague Bunseun You, Khiri’s branch manager based in the provincial capital of Siem Reap, on a day trip to “Komphong Khleang” in August. It’s one of several fishing villages set along the shoreline of Tonle Sap Lake, a freshwater system in the 13,000 square kilometre Cambodian floodplain about an hour’s drive from Siem Reap. It’s a hot, sunny day as we set off in a diesel-powered wooden boat to explore the vast lake, whose tea-coloured waters teem with fish.

As we chug along a narrow canal leading to the main body of the lake, we spy fishermen, their heads bobbing in the water, arranging circular nets at regular intervals. As we watch, one small group hauls a glittering catch of several hundred into a canoe.

“They get a lot here; the lake is very productive,” says Bunseun. “It’s one of the richest ecosystems in Asia.”

Soon we pass a floating community, which consists almost entirely of fishing vessels and home-made houseboats kept afloat by oil drums lashed together, moored close to each other. People in these floating villages are mostly Vietnamese, Flavie says. They’ve been living like this for centuries, since they migrated to Cambodia, and their livelihood depends mostly on their proximity to fish – fresh, smoked or salted – which they also sell at markets.

IMG_9964These villagers seem to do everything on or in the water. Next to one floating home, its deck lined with colourful flowerpots, young kids are diving and swimming. Then we pass by what appears to be a community hall afloat.

In another houseboat, whose sides are open to catch a cooling breeze, a family is gathered round a table having a meal, and a man is asleep in a hammock. Almost all the vessels have antennas, and most people we pass smile and wave, even though tourists must be a common sight here.

“It’s typical,” says Flavie. “Cambodians are so enthusiastic about sharing their food and customs and hosting visitors. It’s contagious.”

Stilt village

This is demonstrated further after we end our lake cruise and arrive at another small village. At this one, which is land-based, Flavie and Bunseun lead me to the foot of an extraordinary timber dwelling, perched on ten-metre-tall stilts. This is a necessity in the wet season when water levels can rise dramatically. Scores of these spindly homes flank a dusty street, resembling a bizarre lakeside forest.

IMG_0084The lady of the stilt house greets us shyly, her eyes curious, as we clamber up a steep flight of steps to the first level. Bunseon introduces her to us as Bun Kimheang, his mother-in-law. Bun, pictured in her home, left, bustles about, serving us a simple but delicious Khmer lunch of braised pork, rice and fresh local vegetables, which include yellow pumpkin-like portions, as well as ice-cold Angkor lager.

In the wet season the water can lap at the floorboards of these houses, says Bunseon, pictured below, and in such times travel is limited to wooden canoes and makeshift craft in which children paddle to and from school. People on some Khiri tours can actually stay overnight here, Bunseon explains. He shows me a curtained-off section of the next floor up, where mattresses line the floor. It’s minimalist and spotlessly clean.

Flavie, Bunseun and their colleagues pride themselves on being able to introduce visitors to experiences like these, and on their local knowledge. “We know the best restaurants, hotels, and transport companies by heart in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, and many of our team possess exceptional training,” she says.

“We choose our clients and agents carefully, because our priorities are to meet customers’ expectations while always protecting the destination; we love being in Asia for the right reasons, not only for profit or because it represents a cheaper option.”

IMG_0091Other Cambodia tour options from Khiri include “Cambodian Island Paradise,” “Exotic Capital, Local Delights,” where visitors can sample Khmer food on a walking tour through the heart of Phnom Penh, and “Banteay Chhmar Tented Camp”.

The latter involves overnight stays at Khiri’s luxury tented camp surrounded by massive temple ruins in the northwest of the country, a three-and-a-half-hour drive from Siem Reap. This one-night, two-day trip starts from USD422 per person. See the video and get more information here:


Many visitors to Siem Reap aiming to see Angkor Wat also take a drive, an hour by tuktuk or 45 minutes by cab, to the landmine museum. This is a facility started by Aki Ra, a former Khmer Rouge soldier who cleared landmines with a stick and at one stage lived in a house full of ordnance. Today the museum cares for poor children who live on the site.

How much?

Khiri packages for hotels, tour guides, transport and lunch start from around USD60 per person per day, says Flavie. Five-star hotels in Cambodia, like Hyatt, Raffles and so on start from USD150 a night in the low season from about March to October, and good four-star hotels, like the Somadevi, whose pool and gardens are pictured below, in Siem Reap, cost around USD40.

Operators’ advice

Flavie Thevenet: “I recommend that travellers to Cambodia do not limit their exploration to Siem Reap and its temples. Angkor Wat and the majesty of the Khmer Empire are mesmerising, a must-see, but many other historical and scenic places are equally appealing on a smaller scale and without the distraction of huge crowds. By spending time in the countryside, travellers have more opportunity to interact with local people. Hearing their stories is equal parts charming and inspiring.”




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


The Northern Territory events business is worth an estimated $90 million a year, with most pundits agreeing that a plethora of mining, oil and gas projects should help ensure a bright future for the sector. In an interview with The Siteseer, Janet Hamilton (pictured below), General Manager of the six-year-old Darwin Convention Centre – part of the $1.1 billion Darwin Waterfront project – says operators who do the basics well are sure to succeed.

JanetHamilton_9001The Siteseer: Janet, can you tell us a bit more about your background and what brought you to your current position?

Janet Hamilton: I’ve got a fairly long track record! I have twenty-five years’ experience in major and special events, marketing, communications, sponsorship and place management. I’ve delivered over 300 special events as program manager for the Sydney Olympic Games and managed over 600 events annually as the event development and sponsorship manager for the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority. As place management director for VicUrban, I managed the Volvo Ocean Race and Commonwealth events for the Melbourne Docklands precinct, among other accountabilities. I moved to Darwin in 2009, taking up the role of external relations manager for Energy Resources of Australia. I was appointed GM at Darwin in October 2013.

SS: What, in your view and from an events organiser’s perspective, are the prime attractions of Darwin and the NT?

JH: Well for a start we have a genuinely world-class modern convention centre in the beautiful surroundings of the Darwin Waterfront. We’re the closest convention centre to South East Asia, which obviously helps explain why we’re seeing more and more national associations selecting Darwin as a convention destination for Asian delegates. It’s a great place for Australian and Asian organisations to have business meetings in a relaxed environment.

SS: The meetings business faces major challenges these days, not least burgeoning global and regional competition. What kind of additional support for the industry in Australia would you like to see?

JH: The business events area of Tourism Australia does a great job in promoting business events with existing resources, but I’m sure our industry, generally, would like to see more business event marketing – focusing on the fact we’re a high-quality business destination as well as a place for leisure.

SS: There’s a strong need, obviously, for venues and business events to embrace CSR and social and environmental credentials. Do you believe you do this better than most and why? Where’s this trend heading, do you think, and what else should the industry be doing in this respect?

JH: Yes we’re proud of our green credentials. The centre is part of AEG’s “1 Earth” corporate environmental sustainability program, and we put considerable effort into making our events as sustainable as possible. It’s a truism, but we live in an incredibly beautiful part of the world and must care for it. As part of our sustainability efforts we support local charities and various initiatives in our community. I believe the industry should heed the fact that this trend to CSR will continue and strengthen.

galaevents4SS: What, in your view, are the other vital issues facing the events and meetings industry right now?

JH: Competition, and the need to sustain economic growth. Over time it’s been proven that there’s a clear correlation between economic health and the business events industry, and as our economy recovers and strengthens we’re seeing a resurgence in business events. We also face growing competition from high-quality centres in Australia and in the Southeast Asian region, supported by the increased marketing efforts of governments as they come to realise the strong economic returns that business events deliver.

SS: What will the most successful operators be doing differently in future? Can you point to any examples?

JH: I think getting the basics right will always make a convention centre successful. If you continue to have world-class facilities, keep up with technology trends, and most importantly focus on clients and ensure their success, you’ll win in this business. Customer service and anticipating clients’ needs is always a good recipe for success. In our case, being part of the AEG Ogden group allows us to share market intelligence and seek advice about delivering best practice and ensuring we embrace operational excellence.

DCC Brolga Awards 2010SS: Do Australian venues, generally, represent value for money? What have we got that makes us really special, in your view?

JH: In Australia we’re well served with first-class convention centres, and the Darwin Convention Centre is well and truly in that category. We all have to make the most of our own unique features and find our competitive advantages. In Darwin we believe our special strengths include our proximity to Asia, the activities surrounding the development of Northern Australia and our diverse and vibrant economy.

SS: The Darwin Convention Centre is widely acknowledged to be well run, as the quality of your events indicates. What lessons can others learn from your operation?

JH: Plan ahead and try to anticipate issues before they become issues! Also, engage with your local community. This can deliver strong local sales, which in turn leads to the attraction of national and international business events. At the moment Darwin is undergoing major projects in oil and gas and we’re maximising these opportunities as the city grows.

SS: On a personal level, how and why are you enjoying this job?

JH: I’ve been in the job for just over a year, so I’ve seen the full cycle of our event calendar and absolutely love coming to work every day. I have a great team who are passionate about what they do, we host interesting events every day and we’re located in one of the most beautiful parts of the world. What’s not to love?!

As Australia’s “front door to Asia” the territory is uniquely placed to seize emerging opportunities in an increasingly wealthy region and to make use of our geographic, economic, cultural and strategic assets. With the increase in direct flight routes to Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, we’re well placed to be a critically important meeting place for businesses that seek to be part of the development of Northern Australia.


Proposals are based entirely on event briefs; there are no standard day rates.

Contact: sales@darwinconvention.com.au

Darwin Convention Centre