APAC MICE market targets Middle East

Sydney Opera House

The Middle East may well be a key international market for Australia and New Zealand this year, helping stave off the negative impact of a challenging economic outlook, TTN has learned at the recently concluded Asia Pacific Incentives and Meetings Event (AIME) 2023, the largest gathering of APAC MICE industry stakeholders. 
Air travel corridor between the Middle East and Australia and New Zealand is recovering rapidly to pre-pandemic levels, with regional carriers Emirates, Qatar Airways, and Etihad operating 17 daily flights between the regions.
As the exclusive media partner from the Middle East, TTN interacted with many among the 400 hosted buyers, over 350 exhibitors and 3,000 visitors attending the commemorative 30th edition of AIME 2023.
Its popularity barometer hitting through the roof, AIME 2023 saw 50% more exhibitors compared to last year. 100 international buyers, 300 Australia buyers marked a 40% increase on 2022 numbers. 
With 25 countries represented at AIME in Melbourne and 12,000 meetings pre-scheduled, Asia Pacific’s most sought after MICE event showed clear signs of a bumper year ahead for the business events sector. 
Melbourne is the cultural and sport capital of Australia. As a result, MICE delegates get a fantastic immersion into iconic experiences at the ringside of global sporting events: think Australian Open, F1 Grand Prix, among others.
The city’s cultural and gastronomic offerings leave an enduring impression. At AIME 2023, TTN caught up with Natalie O’Brien CEO of Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (MCEC) to understand the opportunities for event planners.
Expanding on the facilities under MCEC management, Natalie said, “Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre is Australia’s largest convention and exhibition space, over 70,000 square metres in the heart of Melbourne. We have 63 meeting rooms, 39,000 square metres of pillarless exhibition space, a grand banquet room that can accommodate 1,500 people, a 5,500+ seat Plenary that can be transformed into three self-contained acoustically separate theatres, another theatre that offers 9,000 square metres of space and retractable seating for 1,000 people, foyer and gala spaces with spectacular city views, and sunny outdoor courtyards.” 
Highlighting a strong pipeline of events in 2023 and beyond, she added, “Looking ahead, Melbourne Convention Bureau has secured 76 events for MCEC which are expected to attract 120,750 attendees over the next eight years and contribute $772 million in economic impact. That includes new international business, such as the Global Entrepreneurship Congress, which will be held in Australia for the first time, at MCEC in 2023. One of the world’s biggest business events, the 14th World Chambers Congress will be held at MCEC in 2025.”
BE Sydney, the harbour city’s convention bureau, points to a slew of new hotels that opened in the past two years, and iconic events that position Sydney and New South Wales as pre-eminent business events destinations. The hotel pipeline includes W Sydney expected to open this year in 2023, The Sandstones (Capella Group) in 2023-24 and The Waldorf Astoria in 2025.
The city is celebrating Sydney Opera House’ 50th Anniversary this year along with major events including FIFA Women’s World Cup in July and the famous US festival South by Southwest (SXSW) in October 2023.   
The Jackson, a sleek new superyacht has launched exclusively for incentive and corporate groups to cruise Sydney Harbour. With high-end finishes throughout all three indoor levels and outdoor decks, plus digital media walls on every floor, The Jackson can host up to 500 delegates standing across the entire vessel, 280 on a single level for formal dining or 420 people across two levels. 
In New Zealand, Christchurch is a good place to start for green events. Te Pae Christchurch Convention Centre has taken a big step next step in its sustainability journey with ISO certified programmes for product and organization.
Christchurch airport, only a 15-minute drive from the convention centre, is part of a six-member consortium with plans to bring zero-emission aviation to life with deployment of green hydrogen-powered aircraft – meaning events delegates on a flight to Christchurch could have net zero carbon footprint in the near future. 
Talking to TTN Te Pae Christchurch Convention Centre General Manager Ross Steele expands, “For us, sustainability and sustainable operations go beyond just measuring waste and offsetting carbon emissions. It’s about legacy – what we leave behind for future generations, and how we instil values that will ensure we are not only environmentally sensitive but leading the way in this area for years to come.” 
Te Pae Christchurch Convention Centre is managed by ASM Global and has capacity to host up to 2,000 delegates. It features world-class purpose-built facilities including a 1,400 seat auditorium, up to 2,800 square metres of exhibition space and 24 meeting rooms. 
Making a case for exciting business events is the destination of Gold Coast. Approximately 100km south of Brisbane, this hub of entrepreneurship is an enclave for creative and innovative sectors.
Event planners will have a choice of 160+ experiences within a 30-minute drive, a span of 72 kilometres of golden beaches to activate brands and events. Gold Coast seems to be a favourite among the medical-technology sectors, more than 70 events planned this year form sectors alone.
This includes the 1000-delegate 17th World Federation of Chiropractic (WFC) Biennial Congress scheduled later this year.  
The $6 billion health and medical and innovation hub – Gold Coast Health and Knowledge Precinct makes it an attractive proposition for medical associations, research organisations and pharma brands to consider Gold Coast for major events. The three sectors, medical/health, education and IT together bring in more than 100 events annually to Gold Coast.
Middle Eastern interest in AIME 2023 shows growing interest in outbound and inbound business travel. Packed with back to back appointments on the show floor, buyers and suppliers queued up for a slice of Middle East, the common response was there is tremendous interest in Middle Eastern products, be it convention bureaux or DMCs or tourism boards, and the focus post event we will be to convert the prospects into leads.
Past five years, Talk2 Media has helped organise AIME on behalf of Melbourne Convention Bureau. TTN  spoke with Matt Pearce, CEO, Talk2 Media and Events:
 “Our Middle East exhibitors this year have all expressed interest in AIME 2024 and we have new exhibitors from the region already talking to us, so expect a larger presence from the Middle East next year. This makes sense given the number of flights from APAC straight into the Middle East which make it an attractive opportunity for all.”