Australia launches association arm

Australia is targeting the international association market with its biggest-ever drive, spearheaded by the launch of a national markeing body, backed by a heavyweight marketing campaign aimed at overseas buyers. Conventions Australia, which was launched yesterday at Imex Frankfurt, is made up of 12 venues and convention bureaux, representing the eight Australian international convention destinations – Cairns, Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth and the Northern Territory. The organisation is being led by an eight-strong steering committee, chaired by Adelaide Tourism Authority chief executive Martin Winter. Its main aim is to consolidate and enhance Australia's position as an international association destination. “Although last year saw international association business increase both in Australia and across the world, we did slip by one place to ninth in the ICCA ranking,” said Winter. “Conventions Australia was born out of meetings with major association players, who told us that we needed to react to the growth in competition from other destinations.” Winter added that the Asian market had been particularly effective against Australia and that while Conventions Australia would not focus on particular sectors with its marketing, the medical, financial and IT were obvious areas to target. The organisation has ring-fenced revenue to add value to individual events. This could go towards, for example, subsidising delegate travel or providing top-end speakers. “For instance, if it’s an international aid conference, we will be able to ensure delegates from Third World countries can attend,” explained Winter. The organisation is now on a media awareness drive which will be followed by a three-year, £416,000 marketing drive scheduled to launch this autumn. This will take in advertising, direct mail, a website, PR and the development of collateral such as fact sheets, case studies, DVDs and an image library. Advertising is set to focus on sector-specific publications such as medical journals and will be followed by a direct mail campaign. Winter said the campaign would complement the work of Tourism Australia, which has recently launched its own 'Re-energise in Australia' campaign, aimed at the C&I market, and is supported by Qantas Airways. Both are expected to lend further financial support to Conventions Australia as the impetus for its campaign builds. More bureaux and venue members are also expected to join the scheme shortly. “We aim to increase the number of international association conventions in Australia by 10 per cent over the next three years and to take Australia’s international ranking into the top five convention destinations in the world by 2012,” Winter concluded.

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