17/04/2013 - 09:57

PCB method brings broad benefits

17/04/2013 - 09:57

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A targeted strategy to secure high-yield conferences is paying off.

PCB method brings broad benefits
CHASING DOCTORS: Paul Beeson says medical conferences add significantly to the conference sector’s bottom line. Photo: Bohdan Warchomij

A targeted strategy to secure high-yield conferences is paying off.

THE financial pay-off for Western Australia’s economy from business conferences is growing as the Perth Convention Bureau refines a targeted strategy to secure high-yield events.

The bureau recognised a few years ago that the benefits to the state from these high-yield events were much more significant than from a large quantity of conferences from mixed industries.

The result was a new consideration of how to entice delegates who spend more money while attending conferences than other visitors within the business tourism cohort. 

Earlier research has shown that conference delegates in general spend five times more than leisure tourists – highlighting the potential benefits of business tourism to the state.

But the bureau drilled down even further to discover that, for instance, the amount doctors spent while visiting WA for a conference was more than teachers.

That prompted the bureau to target medical conferences as its first goal for creating a high-yield conference market.

In 2008, the number of business visitors to WA attending medical conferences was fewer than 1,000.

Five years later the number is more than 10 times that, with just under 10,000 expected to visit the state to attend medical conferences in the 2012-13 financial year.

Looking at the performance of the Perth Convention Bureau alongside those attendee figures provides solid evidence of the benefit of securing those high-level events.

The bureau is majority funded by the state government (about $3.5 million per annum) through Tourism Western Australia.

It’s a not-for-profit organisation and is solely tasked with bringing international and national conferences to the state.

Chief executive Paul Beeson told Business News the emphasis was on the “dissemination of knowledge”, which made pin-pointing medical conferences relevant.

“We knew from the outset that medical (conferences) were what the industry wanted – it’s what every bureau and industry desires for their destination,” Mr Beeson said.

“Out of all conferencing sectors, medical conferences must occur annually and have the dissemination of their shared expertise.

“Further to the conference itself they’ll generally enjoy a leisure tourism aspect more than other delegate types.”

The state government’s return on investment has improved considerably in the years since the bureau started targeting higher-yielding conferences.

In the 2007-08 financial year the bureau managed to secure conferences resulting in an expected combined delegate expenditure of $64.2 million.

Five years later (over which period the government’s investment has remained at a similar level) the bureau has increased the amount of forecast direct delegate expenditure to about $102 million.

Looking at specific, it’s clear medical conferences will inject significant expenditure into the WA economy.

The bureau has been successful in bidding for both the 2015 Royal Australian College of Surgeons 86th Annual Scientific Congress during, which will attract 2,500 delegates and a $7.4 million spend.

The Annual Scientific Meeting of the Cardiac Society of Australia and New Zealand in 2017 is expected to bring 2,600 delegates and a $4.6 million spend.

“These delegates are generally reimbursed by the company, they generally stay in a high-quality hotel, take a taxi as opposed to a bus, dine at finer restaurants, they have greater free time so they generally go down south or up north for three or four days,” Mr Beeson said.

But the success in securing these high-level conferences hasn’t been as simple as approaching association leaders and asking them to visit Perth.

“The decision factors for an association to bring their conference to Perth isn’t wholly leisure,” Mr Beeson said.

“They don’t look purely at our leisure product – there’s more of a focus on what their association’s strength is in WA.”

That prompted the bureau to introduce a new methodology in how it goes about bidding for conferences; it has started approaching those at a high level within the local arm of associations and getting them to do the bidding on behalf of the bureau.

“Generally when you put that together and you have the association’s support it’s a far better qualified bid,” Mr Beeson said.

Under the bureau’s Aspire program, local association members can apply for awards or scholarships to travel to an international conference and explore the potential for it being staged in WA.

This increased profile has resulted in WA securing conferences that may previously been thought as ‘unwinnable’; among these is the International Victimology Symposium in 2015, which will bring 500 international and national delegates to WA and will add $1.4 million to the local economy.

Mr Beeson said with the medical conferencing sector proving to be such a success, the bureau was now exploring what other high-yielding sectors it could tap into next.

“We’re not sitting on our laurels; we’re actively identifying and targeting marketing to other high yield conference delegates,” he said.

“These delegates are less affected by on-ground costs, and in the long term this strategy positions Perth and WA as a premium conference destination.”

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