On behalf of the country’s Business Events industry, the Association of Australian Convention Bureaux (AACB) has welcomed the opportunity to give advice on streamlining Australia’s visa system to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.
The Department had called for submissions with the intent of transforming the present system, reducing the current 99 visas to approximately 10 and making it easier to understand, easier to navigate, and more responsive to the country’s economic, social and security interests.
In its presentation to the Department, the AACB emphasised the high yield of business visitors, especially delegates coming to Australia for business events or incentive experiences. Delegate expenditure from this group can be up to 9% higher than the holiday visitor, which translates to a need for a simpler visa system that benefits low-risk, high-yield business travellers.
New AACB President and CEO of the Melbourne Convention Bureau, Karen Bolinger, said that Australia is losing out globally in the race to attract and host the largest business events.
“Australia is already losing major corporate incentives and association conventions due to its costly and complex visa system. The price-sensitive incentive travel market is even worse affected, with Australia often written off as a destination, due to our visa costs,” said Bolinger.
“The trend towards governments offsetting the cost of staging a major convention is growing, particularly in Asia, where governments mitigate the financial risk associated with major conventions.
“Many of our Asian rivals have made it easier on business travellers to attend conventions and business events. Singapore, South Korea and Hong Kong, for example, have visa-free entry requirements for visitors from almost all Asian, European and North American countries. Even New Zealand’s visa system allows for greater flexibility, whereby fees can be waived or offset for business event delegations.
“If we are to maximise the Asian Century, this must include business travellers. Australia needs a visa system that is easier to understand, better suited to the rapidly growing number of visitors, and flexible enough for Australia to remain a competitive destination for temporary visitors and the longer-term entrants Australia needs.”
Andrew Hiebl, CEO of the AACB (pictured), says that a revised visa system needs to have a greater focus on high-growth countries with low-risk and high-yield travellers.
“As well as being higher yielding visitors, business delegates are also lower risk. International convention delegates are far less likely to overstay a visa and have a higher visa grant rate than leisure travellers. The visa reforms we have proposed offer the Australian government a cost neutral option that would streamline the process for business events delegates and encourage greater attendance from growth markets such as China, India, Thailand and Indonesia.”
The AACB submission was developed in consultation with other industry bodies including the Queensland Tourism Industry Council, Restaurant & Catering Australia, and the Australian Tourism Export Council.
The AACB’s visa simplification submission can be viewed online via the AACB website.