Spice News caught up with AACB CEO Andrew Hiebl to hear his thoughts on this year’s budget.

The CEO of the Association of Australian Convention Bureaux (AACB) has welcomed the 2020-2021 Federal Budget, saying it includes the “biggest announcement our industry has ever received” in the previously confirmed $50 million business events fund.

Announced on Tuesday 6 October, the budget included a number of funding initiatives to support tourism, business events and regional destinations.

Tourism Australia, which includes Business Events Australia, will receive $231.6 million for 2020-21, specifically to “ramp up” domestic marketing activities and encourage Australians to travel again.

Simon Birmingham, Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, said the funding will also ensure Tourism Australia is well placed to “aggressively execute” new campaigns to attract international visitors back to Australia when overseas travel returns.

“As we shift to the next phase of our tourism recovery plan, new Budget measures will further support the sector and jobs by stimulating domestic visitation to our tourism regions and encouraging domestic business travel,” he said.

Budget welcome news for business events

This funding is in addition to the $50 million business events grants program, announced last month with the goal to restart business events, including conferences, meetings and trade exhibitions.

AACB CEO Andrew Hiebl

AACB CEO Andrew Hiebl welcomed the 2020-2021 budget measures and the government’s recognition of the sector.

“The reconfirmation of the $50 million business events grant program through the budget is the key benefit for our sector,” he told Spice News.

“Through the Business Events Council of Australia we will continue to work with government on the design of the program and aim to do that as quickly as possible so the benefits can flow through.”

Flow on effects for the industry

The government will invest over $250 million in a Regional Tourism Recovery Package, which includes $51 million over two years for tourism regions particularly impacted by the international border closures, such as Tropical North Queensland and Tasmania.

The funding aims to assist these regions to pivot to the domestic market by adapting their products, experiences and marketing strategies.

While not directly related to the business events industry, Hiebl believes there will certainly be flow on effects for the sector.

“Some of our regional members across Australia will be recipient to some of those funding grants as well, noting that they were particularly hard hit through the lack of international tourists coming to their destinations,” he said.

Hiebl said the AACB will also look into the Home Affairs Portfolio further to see how the industry may be able to benefit.

“There was mention of visa fee waivers moving forward, so that could be a good opportunity in terms of trying to attract international business events back to Australia by reducing visa costs to groups,” he said.

Small businesses and individuals within the events industry may also benefit from tax cuts and ‘immediate expensing’ initiatives, which were both announced in the budget.

Commitment to the industry moving forward

Hiebl said the focus moving forward will be on securing long-term funding commitment for the business event industry.

“At the end of this financial year we come to the end of the three-year funding commitment for the Bid Fund Program,” he said.

“While no doubt the program has been interrupted through the pandemic, we still need to see, particularly as part of the rebound, the long-term commitment to that program.

“Especially off the back of the coronavirus, the competition for the international market will be ever-increasing and we need to make sure that we’ve got confidence in that moving forward.”

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