Selling the regions to business visitors

AFTER seven years at the helm of the Cairns and Region Convention Bureau, Elizabeth Bindon-Bonney has returned home to establish Western Australia’s only agency dedicated to project management in business tourism for the State’s regions.

Ms Bindon-Bonney, who has long been involved in the business tourism industry in WA and Queensland, said there was a growing national awareness throughout Australia of the benefits of business tourism.

“The difference between business tourism and leisure is that the business tourist spends six to eight times more,” she said.

In establishing the new venture – bt create – Ms Bindon-Bonney plans to work with local governments and regional economic development organisations to roll-out strategic planning, destination critiques, brand awareness, product critiques, and to develop regions as business tourism destinations.

By conducting destination critiques and capacity assessments, regions could determine their suitability for business tourism and identify areas they could improve to enhance business tourism opportunities, Ms Bindon-Bonney said.

For example, she asked, “the Kimberley has the leisure tourism infrastructure there, but is there the opportunity for business tourism”.

Ms Bindon-Bonney believes regional WA has enormous potential to attract business tourism from within the State and from Asia.

“When I arrived back [in WA] people were suggesting that Perth was dullsville,” she said. “People need to get out to really see what WA has to offer.”

Ms Bindon-Bonney said the tourism and convention industry in WA had worked hard to get the State Government to support the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre, and the new infrastructure would help drive business tourism into the regions.

It’s estimated the PCEC will generate $2 billion for WA in the first 10 years of operation, with regional areas expected to reap flow-on benefits of around $11 million a year.

“We need to encourage delegates to stay here and disperse it into the regions,” Ms Bindon-Bonney said.

According to Perth Convention Bureau figures, the total meetings industry in WA is worth $630 million a year, with 10 per cent of that going to regional WA.

PCB acting general manager Jill Henry said that, due to the international and national marketing focus on eco-nature, business tourism was more aligned with leisure and regions.

Ms Henry said this gave regional WA great opportunities to take advantage of pre- and post-touring for large conventions, and to attract the corporate meetings and incentives market.

“The meetings industry is attractive to regions because it is high yield and mid week,” she said.

However, the real barrier to regions capitalising on the business tourism opportunities was the stop-start nature of funding, Ms Henry said.

The State Government-run Regional Assistance Program provides 12 months of funding, after which the funded program is expected to be self-sustaining.

Due to the long-term nature of business tourism, Ms Henry said that commitment was not enough “to get runs on the board”.

PCB is currently calling for applications from non-profit community based organisations and their executives for the 2004 BankWest conference awards, which are designed to assist in the development of inaugural conferences in WA.

Three awards worth a total of $20,000 are available to community based organisations throughout WA.

The scholarship offers air travel and accommodation to the value of $10,000 to assist in the professional development of a paid or unpaid executive with a local non-profit association.  

Ms Henry said that, in the three years the PCB bureau had held the BankWest conference awards, it had assisted in the development of 30 inaugural conferences.


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