Swiftenomics and the art of mega events in Melbourne

The days running up to AIME coincided with 96,000 fans at each of Taylor Swift’s three concerts. But the city is just as eager to tune into business event groups from Asia and Greater China

MELBOURNE may be a long haul Down Under for global conference and incentive groups, but the city is drawing in business events from Greater China that would rival Taylor Swift’s legion of followers for economic impact.

The iconic Flinders Street Station projects its welcome to Taylor Swift fans

The billionaire American songstress played three record-breaking nights in Melbourne with her last performance coinciding with the weekend build-up to the opening of the Asia-Pacific Incentive, Meetings Event (AIME).

Some 97,000 fans – or “Swifties” – attended each night’s performance at Melbourne Cricket Ground, funnelling an estimated AUD174 million (about US$114m) into the state of Victoria’s economy through hotels, restaurants, taxis and other transport, plus retail over the three nights.

The opening press conference at AIME heard that despite the hard work and intense planning that went into mega events, they are something that Melbourne takes in its stride with a Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix, Tennis Open, the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival among the attractions that are a boon to the visitor economy.  

“Taylor Swift is absolutely phenomenal to have 96,000 people at her concerts three nights in a row – but Melbourne is an event city at its core,” Julia Swanson, CEO of Melbourne Convention Bureau, told MIX.

“We’re an experienced economy so we’re very much driven,” said Swanson, adding that Melbourne is the only city she knows of that holds major events such as Formula One and the Tennis Open within weeks of each other without disrupting the smooth running of the city.

Julia Swanson, Melbourne Convention Bureau CEO

“Then there’s the broad range of food and wine, and horse-racing events that we have throughout the year. We’re very used to events, so the government absolutely understand it. They understand the economics around it.”

Business events from China would be smaller in number compared to the multitudes of Swifties, but the legacy they leave in educational, social as well as economic impact are valued as much.

Swanson said 75 per cent of corporate meetings and incentives coming into Melbourne over the past 12 months were from North Asia and Greater China. Melbourne and Victoria are strengthening representation in China to secure even more of the market. 

More… AIME on track to be biggest in a decade

“Programs coming into Melbourne as set to bring more than 22,800 visitors between now and the end of next year, and that is continuing to grow every single week,” Swanson told the press conference. 

Large business events bound for Melbourne range from an Amway China Leadership Seminar next week with more than 10,000 delegates, to 13,000 Lions International delegates expected in June 2025 for the International College of Neuropsychopharmacology (CINP) World Congress with a thousand of the world’s leading experts in the discipline attending.  

Melbourne will also be hosting the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit, March 4-6, in which leaders of Southeast Asian member states will meet with their Australian counterparts. “That will be very large delegations from across Southeast Asia, many heads of state – and an that event is taking over Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, which is fantastic.

“That event will continue to build on the strong relations we have with Southeast Asia,” Swanson told MIX.

Main picture: AIME 2024 delegates at the plenary to the event’s Knowledge Program this week at Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre



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