Availability the new challenge as business events rebound

Availability for incentive destinations such as Hamilton Island is getting tighter as the rebound in travel gains momentum.

The business events industry is looking forward to a potentially record year following high vaccination rates, booster shots, open borders and reduced requirements for quarantine, according to FCM Meetings and Events.

“With everyone in catch up mode after so many postponed events over the past two years, along with some Q1 events also being postponed, the market is expected to see demand peak later this year,” said Simone Seiler, FCM Meetings and Events general manager.

“Some clients are also taking a ‘wait and see’ approach to Q2 and considering pushing events back into the latter part of 2022, which is increasing the squeeze on availability.”

In many ways it is the perfect storm, clouded by domestic holidaymakers that have already heavily booked both accommodation and flights for the year ahead, according to the latest FCM Meetings and Events whitepaper Availability 2022 and beyond.

“What we’re seeing is a lot of small-medium corporate events coming online and the overlap of large events happening around the country this year,” Seiler said.

“The upshot of this is everyone is looking to book and stay domestically before international events progressively come on board in 2023 – fantastic news for the Australian economy.”

Nicole Tingey, director of industry consulting firm Clockwise, said the good news is some companies are confident enough to now start planning national, and even international events for bigger groups.

“These groups were predominately choosing city-based locations with global hotel brands and residential conferences with people from their own state, while utilising hotel meeting rooms and venues,” Tingey said.

“But there’s now confidence to consider booking interstate, and into a variety of venues.

“We’re also starting to see businesses use travel as an incentive reward for staff or clients to both reward and reconnect after another tough year.

“In Melbourne, for example, popular destination areas are the high country and the Great Ocean Road. While in Sydney, companies are opting for the Blue Mountains, and in Queensland, it’s islands in the far north.”

Looking to the regional areas, which were the first choice of companies wanting to avoid cities during COVID-19, figures show they are heavily booked for 2022.

Hardy Kilimann, director global sales Marriott, said 2022 is the year that city destinations will be back on the agenda.

“Over the past 18 months Marriott resorts did very well as bookings moved away from CBD settings,” Kilimann said.

“So, the challenge now for the whole meetings and events industry is to work together to sell city destinations. Our CBD properties have the capacity to hold the large events, such as national conferences and there is wide availability.

“While leisure travel is up, we expect that corporate travel, which was 70 per cent of our bookings before COVID-19, will take more time to rebound. So that means MICE customers will have the pick of CBD accommodation offerings.

“Tuesday to Thursday are traditionally the most popular days of the week for events and meetings, but at the moment, most days of the week are available.”