Melbourne has an enviable city-wide collaborative reputation supported by an innovative and sustainable event supply chain, quality accommodation and WOW experiences unique to Melbourne. But what is the city's status and merits as a meetings and convention destination right now? Check out our conversation with the city's convention bureau.
Melbourne, Australia’s second most populous city, boasts the country’s largest concentration of conference facilities, conveniently located in the heart of Victoria. The convention district offers over 197,000m2 of conference space, the pinnacle of which is Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre. It also has more than 17,000 accommodation rooms, ranging from luxurious to budget options for groups of any size. “Our infrastructure paves the way for highly successful international association events. The city is easy to navigate and invites delegates to discover its creative culture, expressed in its food, fashion, events, arts and music scene,” says Melbourne Convention Bureau (MCB) Chief Executive, Julia Swanson.
With an exciting range of new hotel openings this year, it is projected the state will offer 45,145 hotel rooms by the end of 2023. The city is also moving forward with more dynamic projects, including TFE Hotel’s $340 million which will include a 1,000-capacity conference centre where delegates can enjoy spectacular 360-degree views of the city. Another exciting addition projected to open on 2026 is the new Geelong Convention and Exhibition Centre (recently renamed Nyaal Banyul), which will feature a 200-room luxury hotel and retail spaces, with a 1,000-seat venue and 3,700m2 of multi- purpose space. The B2B benefits of business events are well recognised, with exhibitions creating trade opportunities and cash flow for businesses.
Melbourne quickly stepped out of the starting gates in 2022 with greater clarity and confidence, hosting the first international trade show in Australia – the Asia Pacific Incentives and Meetings Event (AIME) – to mark the renaissance of the business events industry nationally and across the Asia Pacific region. From there they moved from 0 to 100 with the return of international association events including the International Conference on Emergency Medicine (ICEM), World Congress on Hair Research, and IATA Slot Conference. “For me, a personal favourite was seeing the highly-anticipated 2022 World Barista Championships and World Brewers Cup as part of the Melbourne International Coffee Expo 2022, attracting a record 15,056 delegates across the four days. Overall, we saw delegates’ confidence in attending the events and a strong desire to meet in person,” reveals Dawson.
Throughout the COVID chapter, MCB has kept its international offices open to preserve client relationships, which has paid off for its business events calendar throughout 2023 expected to attract over 67,000 delegates across the 99 events confirmed to date – including 10 hero association events throughout the year. And just like the Australian Open is the first tennis grand slam of the year, AIME – the leading MICE trade show in the Asia Pacific region – has kicked of the international business event calendar for 2023 and celebrated a 30-year milestone anniversary. This is a significant testament to the longevity and importance of this major event to the global industry.
May 2023 was in full swing with 23 events scheduled across the city, including the Rotary International Convention; the International Conference on Software Engineering and SpineWeek, with around 17,500 delegates anticipated to attend these events alone. “Melbourne continues to be a major drawcard for many international associations. Currently, we have 141 international and national business events confirmed from now until 2028, worth more than $895 million and expected to attract close to 170,000 delegates...” enough to fill the city 19 times over. Delivering value to Melbourne’s stakeholders and partners remains paramount, while driving an annual bidding cycle from highly respected international associations for Victoria. This has secured events such as the World Chambers Congress 2025 and supporting clients with the delivery of their events such as the International Congress on Genetics in July 2023 and the Lions Clubs International Convention in June 2024. “Our forward pipeline is healthy. International client sentiment is positive, and the outlook is very optimistic,” says Dawson.
The MCB team is also ready to provide a suite of services to event planners in the lead up to, during and after international business events. This could take the form of introduction to various government, commercial and investment bodies of the Government of Victoria on international soil, a local organising committee, a dedicated convention services department, and strong support from local industry and academia in the access to the MCB Knowledge Partner network. “To make events accessible for all delegates, MCB can also offer a number of benefits including travel grants, discounted airfares, accommodation together with free public transport in the city’s CBD.”
MCB’s Knowledge Partnership Program has been a powerful tool for sharing the knowledge capital that an event can unlock, and has contributed significantly to shaping the future of local industry with legacy building. Its collaborators include the Doherty Institute, AusBiotech, the Burnet Institute, Bio21 Institute, Swinburne University, RMIT and Melbourne Connect. “Many international associations that chose Melbourne for their conferences highlighted the access to the city’s research institutes and the links to its academics,” says Swanson. To add to the success of Melbourne’s Biomedical precinct − one of the world’s leading research centres for health, technology, life sciences and education − the city is also investing in two new precincts to bolster events in the knowledge sector: The Fishermans Bend Innovation Project aims to put Melbourne at the forefront of global innovation in advanced manufacturing, engineering and design in a joint cooperation between industry and academia − the University of Melbourne leads the way by opening its new engineering and design campus on site from 2025; another infrastructure development will be the Arden Precinct, further transforming Melbourne into a globally recognised destination for innovation and industry collaboration, by leveraging the work of the city’s existing Biomedical Precinct. “Our continued focus is on delivering an event calendar with high yield events aligned with Victorian government priority sectors.” MCB has now introduced a Social Outcomes Strategy, encouraging event owners to incorporate specialist legacy concepts focused on delivering wider social and economic outcomes when hosting their events in Melbourne.
On the technology side, MCB offers a state-of- the-art interactive experience that allows association planners, organisers and delegates to choose their own Melbourne adventure as they embark on a visual event planning journey. “The new Ready.Set.Melbourne interactive video is somewhere between a video show reel and a choose-your-own-adventure book,” explains Dawson. This multimedia tool thus provides thorough local knowledge to host, plan and participate in a conference or association meeting through an immersive inspection tour. Updated throughout the year, the Melbourne e-guide also connects event planners and delegates with inspiring experiences in Melbourne, mapping out travel itineraries and providing a seamless event planning.
Furthermore, Melbourne is ranked the #1 sustainable city in Australia according to the GDS-Index and offers plenty of needs a dash in between sustainable-oriented suppliers and venues to choose from across all touchpoints of a business event. Many international associations wish to organise their events by tailoring them to sustainability standards, and this has been a must-have in bidding and operations across the board. “The resources available on our website and in our sustainability toolkit will help event organisers to minimise their carbon footprint.” MCB has recently implemented its Sustainability Strategy looking at how they can encourage key stakeholders to make changes to limit their environmental impact. Victoria’s circular economy plan, Recycling Victoria: A New Economy, meets this systemic shift to reduce waste (banning single-use plastics) and drive eco-friendly recycling and reuse of resources for a more sustainable and prosperous economy.
Supported by the Union of International Associations (UIA), the International Association of Professional Congress Organisers (IAPCO) and the Interel Group, the global public affairs and association management consultancy, Headquarters Magazines serve the needs of international associations organising worldwide congresses.