Australia’s future prosperity is at risk if it fails to maximise opportunities presented by the business events industry, according to the Association of Australian Convention Bureaux (AACB).

The AACB is calling on the importance of business events to the Australian economy and the role they play in international diplomacy to be formally recognised within Australia’s Foreign Policy.

The move follows a decline in Australia’s share of the international association’s meetings market to 2 per cent, ranked behind 14 other countries, while the global market has increased by 5 per cent.

CEO of the AACB Andrew Hiebl said: “Australia’s future prosperity is at risk if we fail to maximise opportunities presented by the business events industry. As such, we need further government stimulation if Australia is to reach its full potential.

“Governments around the world are investing in and supporting the business events sector because such events are platforms for attracting trade, foreign investment and global talent. Beyond the obvious economic contribution to our tourism industry, business events play an important role in connecting global industry leaders which accelerates innovation through the exchange of information and ideas.”

In a presentation to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the AACB made the following recommendations as part of the submissions process on Australia’s Foreign Policy White Paper:

*Invest in a national convention bid fund of up to $10 million per year to increase Australia’s competitiveness in attracting conventions and exhibitions of national significance.

*Grant attendees of major business events access to the fee-free online Electronic Travel Authority visa scheme to ensure Australia is positioned to take advantage of opportunities in the global economy.

*Establish a travel bursary to bring academics, scientists and business leaders from the Indo-Pacific to international conventions held in Australia in support of a more prosperous, peaceful and stable region.

*Fund a dedicated business and innovation marketing campaign to change perceptions of Australia as a knowledge economy and advance its economic, science and innovation interests.

*Set policies that will attract international organisation and intergovernmental agency headquarters to Australia, resulting in their conventions being hosted in country and growing Australia’s regional and international influence.

“Business events are a crucial part of the Australian Government’s foreign policy strategy. The business events segment of the tourism industry can help build on the Government’s economic diplomacy agenda with the assistance of these targeted policy measures,” Hiebl said.

“Looking forward, the opportunity in the international business events market is a significant one. One that Australia is well placed to capitalise on given our world-class convention centres, attractive tourism assets and proximity to fast-growing Asia.”

According to the Business Events Council of Australia, more than 38 million people attended more than 429,500 business events across Australia in 2015/16, generating $30.2 billion in direct expenditure and 193,500 jobs.