Southeast Asia buyers hit the floor

Asia Pacific Incentive and Meetings Event in Melbourne biggest in a decade as hosted buyers from India and Asean states outnumber Chinese contingent

BUYERS from Southeast Asia accounted for most of the fully hosted AIME contingent from Asia – indicating a surge in conference and incentive travel activity in emerging markets.

The Asia Pacific Incentives and Meetings Event, held in Melbourne February 19-21, was the biggest AIME in a decade, organisers say.

The three-day event hosted more than 600 buyers from around the world and saw 3,500 visitors. Figures also show 570 exhibitors representing business events suppliers and 63 per cent more visitors than AIME 2023. 

Some 33 countries and regions were represented and 16,000-plus pre-scheduled meetings were held between qualified buyers and exhibitors. Organisers say AU$200 million (about US$130m) in business is expected to be generated from this year’s event.

Silke Calder, event director with Talk2Media, which manages the show on behalf of owners Melbourne Convention Bureau, said there were 200 more full hosted buyers compared to last year’s event. 

AIME event director Silke Calder at the show’s opening press conference

“Out of all our buyers, 50 per cent are brand new at AIME. For us, that is the biggest win already,” Calder told MIX. 

“Within that [number] we have 150 international buyers – making it 450 domestic. We’re delighted, but we had to get that big pool of buyers because we’ve grown by 200 exhibitors.”

“In terms of the mix of buyers, the majority of the 150 are Southeast Asia,” said Calder, adding that 19 came from India and 11 from China in a North Asia contingent that represented some 3.6 per cent of the hosted-buyer total.    

Calder said the show is counting on more hosted buyers from China and India in 2024 with the number of Chinese delegates down from pre-2020 levels – a sign that the outbound market is still recovering from the Covid pandemic.

A contingent of 50 buyers from China due at AIME 2020 did not arrive due to the onset of Covid travel restrictions.

“We’re definitely trying to rebuild that, but what we have to be realistic about is we’ve had 600 fully hosted buyers. So I’m hoping for next year. We can definitely have a bigger group from India and from China,” Calder said.

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There were 60-plus Southeast Asia exhibitors including 20 from Indonesia, 14 from Singapore and a new India pavilion with 11 representatives. Seventeen suppliers were represented at the Hong Kong Tourism Board stand in addition to 17 from Japan and seven from South Korea.

The activity among Southeast Asia conference and incentive travel organisers comes as Melbourne prepares to host the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit, March 4-9.

Melbourne is also welcoming large numbers on incentives that are set to bring more than 22,800 participants to the city from the close of AIME 2024 to the end of next year. 

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