‘A feeling of growing optimism’ MCEC’s Peter King on the return of international visitors

peter king
Peter King has resigned as chief executive at MCEC.

Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (MCEC) Chief Executive Peter King on the road ahead as Australia reopens its international border.

Like a lot of us, I am excited and relieved that Australia’s international borders will be reopening to vaccinated travellers from today.

This is a major milestone for our industry and for Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, after what has been a challenging two years.

While international business is long-lead in nature, news of borders opening will have a more immediate effect on the recovery of our sector, by contributing to a feeling of growing optimism and confidence amongst event organisers, venues, suppliers and employees. That confidence is essential to securing the future of our industry, and it is something we should all feel at this point.

Even with the continued challenges covid throws at us, the sentiment felt across our industry is very different to the past two years. Organisers are eager to ensure their events go ahead and we want to work with them to make that happen.

The impact of events returning cannot be understated. Each event that does go ahead has a domino effect on a wider ecosystem of hoteliers, organisers, chefs and casual wait staff, cleaners, technicians, farmers and producers, logistics and transport, exhibitors and many more. At MCEC we pride ourselves on supporting local suppliers, many of whom continue to rebuild from successive lockdowns.

You would be sore pressed to find a single sector that we do not touch in our role as a venue and catalyst for the economy. In the year prior to the pandemic, MCEC contributed more than $1.1 billion to the Victorian economy. Knowing this, we have a key role to play in bringing Melbourne and Victoria back to life. And that’s just what we’re doing.

Recently, we hosted 2,500 visitors a day for Denfair, and will welcome a further 8,000 a day for Foodservice Australia later this month. For our daily visitors, Space Jam: A New Legacy Experience will be extended, while The LUME continues to welcome thousands of people through our doors and brings more and more people to our city.

AIME will also return to our building in March, a much-loved mainstay of our calendar prior to the pandemic, and a flagship event for the incentives and meetings sector that puts our region on the world stage.

On that same global stage, we have a legacy of hosting thought-leaders from around the world, fostering international collaboration. Now that borders are reopening, that connectivity can return. We have some major international events in the pipeline, including the Global Blockchain Summit later this year, the Global Entrepreneurship Congress next year and the ACM International Conference on Multimedia in 2024, all successful bids led by the Melbourne Convention Bureau. Together these deliver a combined boost of $5.2 million to Victoria’s economy, and that’s just a snapshot of what’s to come.

While these are all evidence of a future return for our sector, we also know things aren’t going to be the same. Customer needs and expectations post-COVID have changed, and our operating environment is more complex. For many businesses in the industry, some of them family run, it will be a difficult return to normality. As confidence rebuilds and new priorities arise, we must take a partnership approach to overcome these challenges.

The most important thing we can provide is a safe environment to host events, and we’re able to do that with robust COVID-measures in place at MCEC, many above the Government requirement. We’re fortunate at MCEC to have a fantastic collection of spaces that can be scaled and adapted to facilitate COVID-safe events of any size. Even now, we’re working with customers to explore how we can provide larger spaces for social distancing, and sustainable catering options that can be enjoyed outdoors in greater ventilation.

We still have a way to go before we return to the level of activity we are used to, but, working together is the only way we can ensure events still happen. At MCEC this in an opportunity for us to work alongside customers to explore different commercial arrangements and offerings, while working to keep everyone safe.

We are poised to kick start our business together. We have re-energised our organisation to provide flexibility like we have never seen to accommodate the new needs of delegates and visitors. We are ready to go and so is our community….and so is Australia!