INTERVIEW: GEOFF PARMENTER, EVENTS NSW 16/07/2008 - By Crystal James
Nearly a year old, Events New South Wales has much to look forward to with recent conference wins expected to deliver upwards of AU$43million to the local economy. Crystal James talks to Geoff Parmenter, CEO of Events New South Wales about the company’s core charter.
How did Events New South Wales come about?In February 2007, the Premier Morris Iemma commissioned John O’Neill AO to conduct three reviews on behalf of the New South Wales Government, namely:
1. The possible formation of an Events Corporation
2. Sydney’s Exhibition and Convention Space needs and
3. Tourism in New South WalesEvents New South Wales was established in late 2007 following recommendations made in the first of these reviews. The Company has been set up as a corporate entity, under the Corporations Act, and has a commercial outlook and commitment to providing real return for event investment and support.
Who are the key stakeholders?The State of New South Wales is the 100% shareholder of the Company and the New South Wales Premier has been nominated Member for the Company, representing the shareholder. The Company has a high profile board, chaired by John O’Neill AO, who reports directly to the Premier. The Company is fully owned and funded by the New South Wales Government. An initial base funding of AU$85 million over three years was announced at the Company’s formation. Our primary stakeholders span all levels of government, as well as the private sector stakeholders in Sydney and NSW’s events and tourism industries.
What are the organisation's key objectives and purpose?The Company partners with event proponents and industry stakeholders to develop existing events and attract new events to maximise the economic, strategic and community benefits of events, both public and business, for Sydney and regional New South Wales. Events New South Wales applies rigorous assessment to event prospects to maximise the return to the people of NSW on every dollar invested. We are not interested in buying events just for the sake of hosting them.
How does ENSW interface with the Sydney Convention and Visitors Bureau?Events New South Wales works in partnership with the Sydney Convention and Visitors Bureau (SCVB) to maximise the return on business events for the State. We invest in the SCVB, providing funding on behalf of the NSW Government not only to attract business events to Sydney but also to leverage these events to ensure maximum value from them. The alignment of the two organisations allows us to make the most of the natural synergies between public and business events and we believe this model is groundbreaking in the international events space. The SCVB has performed well consistently, as highlighted by the recent ICCA ranking as the highest Australian city and we are working closely with Jon Hutchison and the team at the SCVB to further refine and develop their strategic approach to attracting business events to Sydney.
How does ENSW decide which events to pursue and where does business events fit into the strategy?
The key to successfully enhancing the value driven to Sydney and New South Wales through events is planning and cooperation across business, industry and all levels of government. As I said earlier, we are not interested in buying or chasing events just for the sake of hosting events. Rather we are working closely with our major stakeholders to identify events that will work hard for all of us to deliver the economic, strategic and community benefits prioritised by the State. Some of these events may well be concepts sitting on our doorstep and with investment from ENSW can provide substantial new benefits, not just to the State, but to the event itself.
In developing the Master Calendar, which will be released later this year, we are focusing on a mixture of cultural, lifestyle, sporting and business events. These events will not be standalone. We are working to ensure that we have a good compliment of public and business events, and events that we can leverage. John O’Neill talked about this in his report emphasising the leveraging and extension of public events with business events and vice-versa.We recently invested, for example in hosting the FIFA Congress, an invitation-only business event, often dubbed the ‘parliament of International Football’. It brings together more than 1,500 of football’s most influential decision makers to discuss world football matters. We worked with Football Federation Australia and the NSW Government to extend the impact of the Congress for the further benefit of Sydney and New South Wales. As well as the Congress, there was an international friendly Socceroos vs Ghana, the World Cup qualifier Australia vs China and several business events, which showcased Sydney to the most important and influential figures in World and Asian Football over the course of a full month in May-June 2008. This is a great example of the leveraging opportunities available through such events.
Asia is an obvious growth region for business events, what strategies are you putting into place to gain a foothold in this market?Asia is certainly a key market for us as it opens its borders, but let’s not forget that many other countries around the world are focusing on these countries as well! So we are continuing to refine our approach in not only the Asian market but globally. The SCVB has recently reinforced its staffing in both our Asian and European offices to ensure these opportunities are leveraged.
Are there any barriers to hosting business events in New South Wales and what are they? How can these be overcome?
I don’t think the barriers to hosting events in New South Wales are any different to the barriers other Australian States are faced with and in fact we face many of the same issues in hosting both business and public events. We all face the barriers of distance, which of course impacts on the cost and time of travel, the rising Australian dollar, the state-of-the-art hotel, exhibition and convention facilities that are being developed at a rate of knots (particularly across Asia and the Middle East) and the budgets that many of our competing countries have to buy events off the shelf.Even if we put all the State event budgets together, Australia still wouldn’t be able to compete purely on the basis of ‘buying’ events, so we all have to be smarter, more creative and capitalise on our strengths to overcome these barriers. For Events New South Wales this comes right back to our core strategy, we are working to find events that are right for Sydney and NSW. And of course this is just as relevant in the business event space as well. We are working closely with the SCVB to ensure we are focused on the events we pursue, which is not only about finding the right events, but working with our stakeholders to create united Sydney bids.
What are some of the business events wins recently?Sydney has recently been announced as the host city for a number of very substantial business events – the 2011 Asia Pacific Life Insurance Congress and the 2013 World Lung Cancer Conference are just two examples. The two announcements were made within a week of each other and are the culmination of much hard work by the team at the SCVB. For me the thrill was not only in hearing of the success in Sydney hosting these important events, it is estimated that both events will have around 8,000 delegates in attendance, but also in watching how the various stakeholders worked together to get the bids over the line.
What is the core focus for Events New South Wales right now?There are probably three key activities that the Company is focused on at present. As I mentioned before we are working to bed down our Master Calendar. We are working closely with communities across NSW to develop our Regional Events Strategy. And we are working in partnership with the SCVB to continually refine and develop our business events strategy. These three vital initiatives should provide a really strong foundation for the new business by the end of 2008.
For more information about Events New South Wales, go to www.eventsnewsouthwales.com.au