Simon Baggs shares his observations about the current state of industry representation.
In my perfect world, all sectors of the event industry (sport, theatre, arts, festivals, business events, incentives, exhibitions, corporate events, etc.) would be represented by one umbrella association. This umbrella association would have significant clout with all levels of government and present a very positive avenue for business development, and other benefits for the entire supply chain.
Then each sector would carry on with their respective association that focuses on each sector’s specific and specialised needs. Contentment reigns.
The new Australian Business Events Association is a presumptive name for what is, effectively, an amalgamation of convention centres, convention bureaus and the EEAA whose combined membership is small and who is very convention orientated. They have ambitions to grow membership, and board representation, no doubt at the expense of MEA and the PCOA.
There may be a low ebb of enthusiasm for the existing associations as they get up off the ground and dust themselves off after the pandemic. Still, a new shiny entity born of conventions and exhibitions would need to demonstrate its relevance to the broader industry before I could get excited about it.
I understand the ABEA says everyone is calling for ‘one voice’, but who exactly has been calling for this one voice is unknown.
Tourism Minister Ferguson, some years ago, called for ‘one voice’ to advise the Federal Government on how it can financially support the business events industry; and BECA was that voice. A massive effort was put into white papers to submit to the government, but Ferguson responded by saying he could not justify investing money; the only thing the government would do would be that which cost no money.
BECA also failed to secure funding from the government during the pandemic, again not for lack of trying or lack of effort, and this is not a criticism of BECA, but they had one job; and that was an impossible job since clearly, federal government has no appetite to fund the event industry. Unless there is a horrendous disaster leading to government legislation, I doubt we’ll attract the government’s attention anytime soon, platitudes aside.
Is it the industry that is calling for one voice? If all the current associations merged into one, I think it would be five minutes before each sector would break out with its own association, as the PCOA did by splitting away from MEA many years ago.
I contend that the clout a single unified event industry association, representing all sectors of the event industry is a far more potent force than a ‘single voice’ to government. Government does take notice of sport and to a much lesser extent the arts, but not much else. A unified voice of the entire industry would be heard loud and clear by all levels of Government.
MEA might rebuilding after the pandemic, as many of us are, but it’s government recognised training, its education, mentoring, networking programs and the ability for us to benchmark our abilities through a stringent awards program will continue to have my support.
Simon Baggs is the chairman of Lateral Events, a company that works in premium, business, corporate event management and theatre/arena events in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, and the UK.