Rosie Douglas has one more day in the office before she steps down as General Manager – Partnerships & Events at Tourism Tropical North Queensland. CIM spoke to her about the journey over the last decade heading the region’s convention bureau.
What changes have you seen over the last decade? Event planners are relying on convention bureaux more and more to assist them with their work, which can be challenging when you are a small team like ours.
I think the challenges are that the supply chain is part of the tourism sector, yet the customers we are talking to span many different industry sectors and it’s hard to get one entity to take ownership.
Funding has always been a challenge, however we now have to be smarter with how we spend our funds to demonstrate an ROI, while partnerships have become increasingly important especially when there are budget challenges.
Has the profile of business events risen within government? Yes definitely. Government at all levels has started to appreciate the role business events play both in visitation, as well broader community benefits. Thanks to BECA and now ABEA, along with Business Events Australia, there is now recognition at all levels that the business events sector is not only a valuable contributor to the visitor economy but it enhances the profile of regions, states and Australia through the events that are hosted.
Was it an uphill battle to define the value of business events over leisure? In our region, leisure visitation will always make a greater contribution. However, we have focused on attracting events that profile our regional industries and expertise, especially in the shoulder and low seasons.
Here in Queensland, good work is being done to put a spotlight on events in the lead up to the 2032 Olympics. However, there are still more opportunities to get government departments working closer together to attract events that align with key industries, as well as the Olympics. With both state and local government elections in 2024 we need to make sure that momentum is not lost.
What are some of the major themes that have emerged? Sustainability is the big one and it’s not just getting rid of single use plastic, which is an expectation not a selling point. It’s about holding events that are genuinely addressing their carbon print and taking steps to minimise. We offer carbon calculation and offsetting programs, which have been well received. It’s also about including our First Nations culture into events, not just welcome to country but incorporating cultural elements across the whole event.
Accessibility is another theme that is emerging. Identifying accessibility needs (not just wheelchair access) and offering options that covers all areas. Queensland has the year of accessible tourism which has been great to educate and guide our industry.
Giving back to the community is also another theme – especially in the corporate sector. The challenge with this is often government regulation, insurance and red tape preventing delegates getting involved in activities.
What have been your personal highlights over the years? I’ve had the opportunity to work with and mentor some amazing young people who have gone on bigger and better roles, which has been really rewarding.