I would like to thank you all for being with us this evening for the joint-launch of two of the most important fixtures on the calendar of the Australian events industry — the 2012 Australian Event Awards and the 2012 Australian Event Symposium.
And I feel honored to have the opportunity to make some remarks about this industry, which I know is so prized by all of us, but whose contribution to our country — to our economy, to our communities acrossAustralialarge and small, to our linkages with other countries, and toAustralia’s international brand and reputation — is not widely understood.
But let me start by giving you a taste of the two exciting and important events which will be held concurrently in September 2012.
The Australian Event Awards 2012
The Australian Event Awards were initiated in 2009, so 2012 will be their fourth year. I have the pleasure of co-chairing the Judging Panel, with a true luminary in the Australian events industry, Johnny Allen. It is a panel made up of event experts who are themselves proven, successful practitioners and leaders in their field.
It is important to recognize that to win is a recognition by one’s peers in the industry.
25 awards are given covering all sectors of the industry. Reflecting this variety, in 2011, we had finalists from grand slams, Formula 1, weddings, balls, fun runs, product launches, Oprah’s welcome party, NRL All Stars, a blues festival and a motor show.
Some locations that were represented by 2011 finalists included: Coonawarra (SA), Mackay (Qld), Tasmania, Byron Bay (NSW), Greater Geelong (VIC), Broome (WA), Terrigal (NSW), Gold Coast (Qld) and Warrnambool (VIC); as well as strong showings from the capital cities.
Let me give you some examples of notable winners:
- SantosTour Down Under
- Australian Open
- Sydney Festival
- Sydney2009 World Masters Games
- Sydney Royal Easter Show
But it is not just about the big events, and it is not just about the big cities. The awards also recognize smaller events and regional and rural events.
And the awards are not only about recognizing events themselves. The awards also recognize how many different functions must come together to create an outstanding event, so that each year awards are given in mission critical fields ranging from projection technology to catering, overlay design, event entertainment and environmental sustainability.
Particular individuals in the industry who have made an outstanding contribution over a long period have been recognized with Lifetime Achievement Awards: Peter Rix (2011), David Atkins (2010) andDavidChurches(2010)
The nomination and judging process for the 2012 awards commences on 1 June and the awards will be given at the Australian Event Awards Night of Nights, to be held at Sydney Olympic Park on 13 September. With apologies for the cliché, I have to say that “glittering” and “Academy Awards” come to mind to describe this event.
The Australian Event Symposium 2012
Coinciding with the Awards, the Australian Event Symposium will be held on 13 and 14 September at the Sydney Exhibition and Convention Centre.
This symposium is the most important annual stocktake of the Australian event industry — in which I include not only the private sector practitioners, but the vitally important government authorities which develop and promote events, and community organizations.
The symposium this year is titled: “Finding Our Mojo: Creativity, Innovation and the Business of Australian Events”.
This theme is very timely, because the present context is one of challenge as well as opportunity.
That phrase might sound a bit trite and overused, but it has never been more accurate.
Yes, we have a great event industry and significant competitive advantages; but we also have a constrained economic environment both here and overseas, a high Australian dollar, and increasingly intense competition from regional neighbors such asSingapore, Hong Kong andShanghaiwho are devoting huge resources, capital and imagination to their tourism image, infrastructure and brand.
We cannot be complacent.
So the symposium will bring together experts from industry, government and the community to address how Australia can run ahead of the pack in vision, creativity, innovation, technology, marketing and best practice management.
I expect that the symposium will be able to go beyond analysis to form conclusions and recommendations. I will be chairing a small think tank of experts on the day before the symposium with a view to putting ideas on the table.
The symposium, in short, has an important role in identifying what we need to do to keepAustraliaat the forefront of this business — and pressing the argument that we must do so.
Why is this important? Because the clever country must nurture its clever industries, and the event industry is certainly one.
A National Asset
So let me say plainly that the Australian event industry is a national asset.
While the diversity of events (sporting events, business events, community events, corporate events, private events and so on) makes it difficult to quantify the overall economic impact of the sector on the economy, many events now capture economic impact data as a matter of course. This data clearly shows the significant contribution they make.
- Take for example The Amway Greater China Leadership Seminar inMelbourne– an extraordinary influx of 7200 Chinese delegates spending close to $19 million for a total economic impact of $35 million.
- Or again, the Sydney Boat Show which has gone from a suburban shopping center in 1968 with 57 exhibitors, to the largest recreational boat show in the southern hemisphere with 280 exhibitors and 75,000 visitors, 2000 of them from overseas. The industry benefit is now an astonishing $500 million.
- Expenditure by visitors attending business events was worth $7.9 billion to the Australian economy in 2009, and it is estimated that this has the potential by 2020 to rise to $16 billion per annum. The amazing thing to note is that even though this figure of $7.9 billion is very significant — exceeding, for example, the Australian wine industry at $5.5 billion — this only represents a very narrow calculation; spending by overnight and daytrip delegates.
- And it is not just business events which have economic impact. A recent headline in the Sydney Morning Herald was: “Festival Rings up $57 Million for State”. This years Sydney Festival drew 18,000 people, producing $32 million from direct visitor expenditure and $25 million from indirect flows to hotels, restaurants and retail.
The legacy fromSydney’s Olympic Games was patchy, with inadequate follow through on tourism in particular. But with every passing year we can see the enduring benefit at Sydney Olympic Park, a pre-Olympics industrial waste site which is now well on the way to being a thriving sport, recreation, education and residential precinct that hosts almost 6000 events annually and contributes more than $1 billion in economic activity to the New South Wales economy.
And beyond the big-ticket items, obviously even small events can have significant economic impact for small regional communities who are under stress, and rightly looking for every new economic opportunity that can find.
Furthermore, although less tangible than dollars and cents, events enrich communities with a sense of pride, purpose and shared experience, as we saw on a grand scale with the Olympics but which is replicated in some measure with every event.
Moreover, while we need to be hardheaded about the challenges facing the Australian event industry, we can also afford to be upbeat aboutAustralia’s capabilities.
If we think of other countries as competitors — for conventions, sporting events or whatever — I can assure you that they also think of us in the same way.
The important recent decision by theNew South Walesgovernment to rebuildSydney’s convention, exhibition and entertainment venues atDarlingHarbourbites a bullet which needed to be bitten ifSydneywas not to fall behind. No doubt there can be differing views about scale, design and so on but the fundamental decision is right.
Melbourne’s new convention center is already first rate, and winning business forAustralia. The competition betweenAustralia’s capital cities is no bad thing.
I was recently inDarwinfor a remarkable event — the commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the bombing of Darwin in 1942 — and had the opportunity to see the excellent new convention center there.
Like Sydney Olympic Park, and a wide range of sporting and cultural facilities, these are examples of our generally world-class events infrastructure.
But we also have the people and the expertise.
Perhaps nothing more dramatically demonstrates this than the preponderance of Australian experts and companies on the international stage — from PTW designing the iconic water cube for the Beijing Olympic swimming competition (to pick just one demonstration of Australia’s second to none expertise in sports architecture), to David Atkins who produced the award-winning opening ceremony for the Asian games in Doha, to Scott Wilsallen and Christopher Kennedy providing the audio for the London Olympic opening and closing ceremonies.
This is just to pluck out some examples from a very wide field. In the period since the 2000 Olympic Games and up to theLondonOlympic games which are just around the corner, this has become an export industry forAustralia, probably approaching $1 billion.
Consider this: since the 2000Sydneygames, all successful Summer Olympic bid cities have had Australian advisors, and all Summer and Winter Olympic organizing committees have had significant involvement of Australian consultants and staff. All of the five bidding cities for the 2020 Olympic games have Australian advisors right now.
At the current time, the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games and the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games are still considered the benchmark for these events.
The operational methodology developed for Sydney 2000 has had a major impact on all subsequent Summer and Winter Olympic Games, Asian Games, Commonwealth Games, Youth Olympics and many other international multi-sport events and world championships.
And we are sustaining this event expertise with world-class event education. Growth in this sector has given rise to an expanded effort by the vocational education and training sector, as well as universities. The number of people completing a Diploma of Event Management rose steadily from around 800 in 2007 to over 1800 in 2010. Post graduate and undergraduate degrees in this area are now common place across Australia.
It is therefore timely that the Australian Centre for Event Management’s Education Forum (which is being sponsored by Service Skills Australia), which will be taking place the day prior to the Symposium, will be looking at, amongst other things, some of the issues that have arisen due to this growth.
Moreover, is an entrepreneurial industry, rich in ideas. The Australian event landscape is full of examples of get up and go — imaginative initiatives like the very successful Opera on the harbor to the Semi-Permanent Design Conference. From little things, big things do indeed grow.
Winning International Events — the Bar Has Gone up
Now let’s look at the other side of the coin, the challenges.
Here I want to say a few words about the dual strategy which we must follow in regard to major events — on the one hand, winning the right to host major events and, on the other hand, developing our own which can become drawcards for the world.
We need both of these parts of a major event strategy to working well and complementing each other if Australia is going to realize the full potential of major events for our economy.
The disappointing failure of our bid for the Football World Cup should be something of a wake-up call. This was not, after all, a situation of – “Well, bad luck, we almost made it”. The unpalatable fact is that we did not almost make it. We were decisively beaten.
Australiamust be at the top of its game in the business of bidding if we are to succeed in securing the big, blockbuster international events.
It would be unfair to say thatAustraliahas ever just arrogantly assumed that, of course, the owners of international events will want to bring them here because we are such a self-evidently desirable place to visit and such self-evidently capable hosts. We’ve always known that we must work hard to win the right and the privilege.
The Sydney 2000 Olympics were only won a huge amount of skill and effort — and dogged persistence after failed bids by Melbourne and Brisbane. Nobody ever made the mistake of thinking that victory was in the bag. And the result was a win, by a very narrow margin.
Even so, we must recognize that, since then, the business of bidding, already hard, has got even harder.
In part this is because of an increase in the standard which is expected. The bar is going up. A winning bid these days needs to be compelling in every respect — the technical side must be faultless but on top of this there must be the demonstration of vision, passion, community support and a sustainable legacy.
The owners of major events are looking for creative initiatives — likeLondon’s proposals to use the Olympics to contribute to grassroots sport for young people around the world, orQatar’s proposals to the use of the Football World Cup to provide venues reusable by other countries .
The way the bidding bar has been raised can be seen most clearly in the much greater stringency in the IOC bidding process over the past decade.
Bidding is now in two stages, so that weaker bids are culled out and the stronger ones form a short list. I can assure you from personal experience that this is a rigorous process. I was on the IOC committee which did the shortlisting for the 2012 games. The President of the IOC, Jacques Rogge, urged the committee to make the hard calls. The committee was composed of experts from around the world, and chaired by Rogge’s deputy. It examined each of the bids, subject by subject, from venues to transport to government and corporate support.
And it did make the hard calls — for example recommending thatRio de Janeironot go through to the second round at that time. It is probable thatRio’s ultimately successful bid for 2016 was strengthened by this disappointment for 2012.
The shortlisted candidates then submit full bids and are further scrutinized by experts with an even finer tooth comb.
All of this is a far cry from the gladhanding and lobbying of the old days. It is the silver lining on the cloud of scandal which hit the IOC in 1999 in connection with the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics.
And it is worth underlining in particular the much higher standard now required in relation to legacy. If a city cannot explain how it’s hosting the Olympic Games will leave an enduring benefit then it need not bother getting into the race in the first place. This is now a “must-have” not a “nice to have”.
These remarks which I have made about the IOC lifting the bar are likely to apply increasingly to other international event owners — or at least we should hope that this is the case. Our view should be: The higher the bar, the better forAustralia, because we are very, very capable in this sector.
Far from putting cities and countries off, this increased rigor has coincided with an increase in competition to host major events.
Again, sticking to the Olympics as an example, it is extraordinary that the IOC was in a position for 2012 to choose betweenNew York,Paris,London,MoscowandMadrid. With no disrespect to other cities, one would have to say that this constituted a tougher field than, say,Melbourne,Manchester,OsakaandAtlantafor 1996.
I don’t wish to overplay that argument. Certainly, the strength of fields can go up and down, and it may be too early to talk about a trend. But certainly a city seeking the Olympics these days does need to realize that it will find itself playing in the big leagues, and it would be a brave country which does not put forward its “first city”.
But the more fundamental development is the successful entry into the bidding contest of geographical regions previously overlooked.
In 2016,Rio de Janeirowill host the first Olympics ever in South America (not to mention a series of other events thatBrazilwill be hosting, notably World Cup football). Does anybody doubt that this will open the doors to other cities in South America such asBuenos Aires, which previously bid but failed?
Then there isAfrica. It was natural enough forSouth Africato host the Rugby World Cup, but clearly FIFA was making a deliberate and bold branding move when it took the Football World Cup there. The Olympics must go toAfricaone day — and so they should despite the operational challenges.
The subcontinent is also getting into the field of competitive bidding for events. The Commonwealth Games inDelhiwere obviously problematic, but the heightened prominence ofIndiaon the world stage makesIndia’s aspirations to host an Olympic Games entirely plausible, much asBeijing’s was for similar geopolitical reasons. Australia’s competitor for the 2018 Commonwealth Games wasSri Lanka, and the Gold Coast had to run hard and well to win.
But perhaps the most remarkable example of the increased geographic competitiveness which I’m talking about isQatar. Again I can speak from personal experience.
A number of Australians, including myself, assistedQatarto put on the Asian Games — a kind of regional Olympics — in 2006. Understandably,Qatar’s learning curve at that time was pretty steep. And, in the end, a very large number of Australians assisted with the delivery of the Games. This is not, by the way, in any sense a put-town ofQatar– on the contrary, putting on major events is an international industry and any host should be happy to use expert talent from elsewhere, especially if, likeQatar, the local population is very small.
But the point is that only six years later,Qatarhas positioned itself as a formidable competitor for international events. Australialearnt this at significant cost — emotional, reputational and financial — when we failed in our bid for the Football World Cup. The reasons for Qatar’s successful entry into major events are many — the attractiveness for a sport like football of taking its pinnacle event to the Middle East, the country’s wealth, and a conscious policy by government using events to enhance Qatar’s international profile and diversify its economy.
Community Support — a Crucial Factor
Now the insistence on higher quality bids and the increased competition are no bad thing; on the contrary.
A strong bid, well-thought-out, goes a long way to laying a strong platform for the event itself, as we can see from the clarity of purpose whichLondonhas shown in preparing for 2012.
And the higher standards and the heightened competition are good for the franchise, whether it be the Olympics or anything else.
Australiashould not be frightened of this at all. We have tremendous competitive advantages. They range from the most fundamental macro-level advantages (a decent, stable, welcoming, multicultural, sports loving, event loving, outward looking, highly competent country which people from around the world wish to visit) to our proven performance in the detailed nitty-gritty of every aspect of putting on major events.
Australiais that wonderful combination of excitement, flair and fun, on the one hand, and a safe pair of hands on the other.
But a sense of entitlement will be a recipe for failure. Our bids must demonstrate excellence at all levels — the vision, the technical proposals, the legacy and the community support.
I wish to emphasize in particular the last of these points; we must demonstrate that the event for which we are bidding is not sought only by a particular sport inAustralia, a particular cultural interest inAustralia, or a particular business interest inAustralia. We must demonstrate to the franchise holder, whether it be FIFA or anybody else, that the desire for the event is passionate, wide and deep in the community.
The Sydney 2000 Olympic and Paralympic Games are remembered with such affection in the Olympic movement because they were the community’s games. Other cities have aspired to be the people’s games; butSydneyreally was.
Those of us privileged to be involved in the organization of the games provided the bone and sinew and muscle to make it work; but the people provided the heart and soul and spirit. That is the picture we must present in the bids which we make.
The Big Three
The good news is thatAustraliawill succeed in winning major events, including the “big three” — the Olympic Games, the Football World Cup and the large-scale Expo.
Regarding the Olympics, we have of course hosted this brilliantly twice; Australia is held in very high regard in the international Olympic movement where we have a strong sporting and managerial brand and are seen to be active and constructive contributors; we are the most obvious host in the Oceania region; and we will undoubtedly host the Games again one day.
Regarding the Football World Cup, I for one would be disappointed if we did not sometime try again. Let’s show the international footballing community that Australians do not give up, just as we did not give up on the Olympics in the face of failed bids.
Let’s learn the lessons rather than bear grudges.
Let’s use the opportunity of hosting the Asian Cup finals in 2015 to give world football a taste of the extraordinary event whichAustraliawould host if we were given the World Cup itself.
But crucially, let’s also use that opportunity to give the Australian public — whether football supporters or not — a taste of what a tremendous community event the World Cup would be, on a par with the Olympics and just as capable of bringing benefit to Australia. Let’s put ourselves in a position to run a bid next time which is highly organized, technically excellent, smart and creative certainly, but grassroots in its inspiration.
In the end, wide, deep and passionate public support — combined with a bid dedicated to honoring and promoting the sport itself and its history and growth inAustralia– may be more crucial to success than a big bidding budget.
Regarding the Expo, it is very welcome that Newcastle may be hosting the smaller version of the Expo in 2022 — the so-called “Recognized Expo”. But as with the Asian Cup football and the World Cup football, Australia is also capable of winning the right to host the big one — the so-called “Registered” Expo.
Of course the economics, the geographical location and so on need to be thoroughly examined, but some preliminary comments can be made.
There is nothing like the same trail of controversy about financial and economic costs and benefits which still tends to apply to the Olympics. This is not surprising, if only because an Expo runs for six months, not 60 days, so the economic activity is much more protracted; the venues tend to be of a multipurpose type which are more usable afterwards than specialized sporting venues like, say, a velodrome or a shooting center; and the Expo is inherently concerned with innovation, technology and business connections involving Australia’s trading partners around the world.
So if, as I expect, the economics and the practicalities stack up, I think we should pick our time and then go for it.
It is not just about an influx of tourists, important though that is.
We are, after all, the 13th largest economy in the world with a GDP of close to $US1.5 trillion, and we have a vital stake in a modern, international economic profile and engagement with the world economy.
Creating International Events — Indigenous Arts Festival
But now let me turn to the other side of the coin. We need more imagination and drive in developing homegrown events that can become international attractors.
We do not have to put our fate as a world event center solely in the hands of the IOC, FIFA and so on.
Bidding for existing events is one thing, and it is an expensive and uncertain business. Building our own events is therefore a very sensible second component to our strategy. By spotting gaps, opportunities and building our own world events we can take control of our own fate.
I have mentioned earlier thatAustraliahas shown get up and go in developing homegrown events, and this is to be heartily applauded, as is the network of Events Corporations and Authorities operating in this space across the country.
But are we producing, to the extent we could, Australian events which provide big branding and big tourism opportunities for our country?
Are we even as open as we should be to considering new ideas of this kind?
I wish to give an example that is dear to my heart, both because I think it is morally right forAustraliaand because I think it offers tremendous potential for our tourism industry and for our international image.
I have proposed that one ofAustralia’s capital cities should stage an Indigenous Arts Festival of world standing every two or four years, to honor and celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and as a major new visitor attraction.
To me, it is ironic, and rather sad, that is took the Olympic Games coming to town in 2000 forAustraliato stage the nation’s first — and only — truly major celebration of indigenous art and culture, the Festival of the Dreaming in 1997.Australiashould not have needed the prompting.
What country has more need of this, asAustraliacontinues to grapple with the deep challenges of bringing indigenous people fully into Australian society? And what country is better placed to do it, given our two big competitive advantages – we are home to possibly the world’s longest enduring culture, and we are second to none in organizing major events?
The day-to-day exhibiting and honoring of indigenous art aroundAustraliais obviously vital. But what was special about the Festival of the Dreaming is the same thing which is special about the Olympic Games, and why it has such remarkable pulling power. The magic of the Olympics is precisely that it compresses into one place and one time a tremendous variety of sports, all performed to a standard of excellence, so that the whole becomes bigger than the sum of its parts. Likewise, the Festival of the Dreaming was a unique draw card because it compressed into one time and one place an unprecedented critical mass of visual and performing arts.
In four weeks, in 1997, the public were able to enjoy indigenous art ranging from the highly popular Mimi stiltwalkers which drew mums, dads and kids toCentennialPark, through to the leading-edge dance of Bangarra at the Opera House. This single cultural showcase gave voice to more than 700 indigenous artists fromAustraliaand around the world. Every state and territory ofAustraliawas represented. There were works from urban, remote and rural areas.
They were also indigenous contributions fromNew Zealand,Canada, Greenland, theUnited States,Koreaand the countries ofOceania. Likewise, my proposal would involve inviting indigenous people from around the world to showcase their art and culture in the Australian hosted festival.
So what I am proposing is the big impact event; one which is distinctively Australian but readily able to be internationalized; and one which speaks directly to our tourism customers because part of their fascination withAustraliais our indigenous art and culture.
I would take this opportunity to urge government and the private sector to look positively at this proposal.
Business Events, Innovation, Trade and Investment
The final, big challenge which I would like to refer to is the need to get the event industry recognized, including by government, as not just a “nice to have”, but a “must-have”.
Is this exaggeration? Not when you think about it.
One of the reasons that people feel insecure about our economy, notwithstanding that we are forever being told how much better we are doing their other countries, is that Australians feel the ground shifting beneath their feet. They are correct. We have an economy which is seeing a relative decline in manufacturing, a skew towards mining which will not last forever, uncertainties in agriculture and in the future of many rural and regional communities, job insecurity and reduced productivity.
So it is nothing short of a vital national imperative to shift towards clever, sustainable, international service industries. And the smartest, quickest, most cost-effective way to do that is to build on existing strengths.
I put it to you that the events industry is one of those strengths, along with the more commonly recognized sectors of tourism and education.
Now there is much that could be said about this, and no doubt the Symposium in September will do so. I will confine myself to one crucial point.
We have to get away from thinking about the event industry as a silo, or if we think more broadly at all, thinking only about the benefits for tourism.
We should recognize that the events industry has extraordinary links into the economy more generally.
Now the event industry is much larger than the business events component of it, but let me just focus on business events to make the point. Think of it in concentric circles.
- The small circle in the center would be the value of these events in terms of direct delegate spend; and as I said earlier this is itself a significant $7.9 billion.
- The next circle out would include expenditure by local residents, exhibitors and organizers, bringing the total to $17.3 billion.
- But then we have a third, even bigger circle which would put a value on the investment, research and development and trade generated by such events.
- And then of course there will be the fourth circle of hard to measure but nonetheless important social and environmental values.
So I totally agree with the Business Events Council of Australia that “business events deliver much more than travel and hospitality spend”.
And in particular I agreed that “they are at the forefront of the knowledge economy”.
The high-level knowledge content of business events is shown in the Botanical Congress forAustraliaattracting 2400 experts from 73 countries toMelbourne. It is shown in the innovation showcase at the Oil and Gas Exhibition inPerth; and the laser and ultrasound systems showcased and sold at the Asia Pacific Academy of Ophthalmology Congress inSydney. It is shown in the international conference initiated by the John Curtin School of Medical Research at the ANU to establishCanberraas a global hub in the emerging field of translational medicine; and in the Nobel laureates and 600 other scientists from 37 countries attending the International Conference on Atomic Physics in Cairns.
And it rolls on. Only in the past few days you will have seen publicity for not one or two but three events opening this month inSydneywhich are devoted to ideas and innovation — Vivid Ideas, TEDex and the prestigious CeBIT Australia 2012. CeBIT alone brings 500 exhibitors and 30,000 visitors from 38 countries — but the point is, how much more does it bring in terms of leading-age contacts, connections, trade and investment?
Events are, in other words, gold in terms ofAustraliaas an internationally plugged in smart country, positioned to benefit from trade and investment in leading-edge industries and professions. It is good that this seems to be a dawning recognition of this, and I wish to lend my voice to it.
This is why we should, likeSingapore, deliberately alignAustralia’s event strategy, especially our business event strategy, with our strategies for innovation, trade and investment.
I would now like to thank those who have made the Australian Event Awards 2012 and the Australian Event Symposium 2012 possible. The organizers are again in 2012 doing an outstanding job. The expert judging panel for the awards is to be thanked for giving freely of their time. And the awards and the symposium are supported by 20 magnificent sponsors who are demonstrating in the most tangible possible way their commitment to the Australian event industry.
I think it will be clear from what I have said that the Event Awards and Event Symposium are indeed important events in an important industry, and I will now declare the 2012 edition of them well and truly launched.