Karen Bolinger

On the sidelines of Asia – Pacific Meetings and Expo (AIME) Karen Bolinger, CEO of Melbourne Convention Bureau, a dynamic name in the business events industry, speaks on how Melbourne Convention Bureau has brought a city wide economic development with Travel And Tour World.

Travel And Tour World – What are the key objectives of Melbourne Convention Bureau (MCB)?

Karen Bolinger: The key objective for us is to attract large international convention into Melbourne and we deliver over 200 events and about 60,000 delegates to the city every year.


Travel And Tour World: You have worked 7 years with the Sydney Convention Bureau, a very competitive convention centre.You will be best person to compare the competitive convention position. How will you place MCB at an advantageous position?

Karen Bolinger: I have lived seven years in Melbourne too they are two different cities, to be honest a city should have the hygiene factors, infrastructure, venue, suppliers and hotels. If you don’t have that then you should not be in the gang.

But your approach to doing business is a game changer and the difference for Melbourne is we call it a team Melbourne and it is not just a throwaway line. We do business in a philosophical approach.


Travel And Tour World: You have more than 20 years of experience in sales, marketing and branding, starting from properties you have handled hotels and big events. Tell me how a convention bureau is marketed keeping tourism in mind?

Karen Bolinger: They way we work in Melbourne is, we all are joined together now. Earlier it was three separate organizations Tourism Victoria the general leisure tourism , the government department and the Victorian major events.

We do business events and the government has partnership in MCB with 214 members. About 2 years ago wewere asked to collaborate under one roof and we agreed to do that. Since then the approach has been on leveraging each other’s benefit. We bring delegates and our sales pitch is not a leisure pitch, but when decision makers have decided and the delegates attend then tourism comes into play. They come for business proposition and become tourist at the side of it.


Travel And Tour World: The Minister said that you are the most dynamic business lady in Melbourne renowned for doing big events. Can you name an event which was a challenge for you ?You wanted a big financial banking for an event to be organized in Melbourne. What was that?

Karen Bolinger: We did not do that ,we did the ITS – Intelligent Transport System one, it had 11,000 people attending in October 2016 and we pitched it in 2014.

The challenge is often getting a local host, finding and then convincing them to take the risk. We leverage the fact that they will be able to build great network .We bid everyday so that people coming in the journey understand their role in that.

If you think of Olympics it is about a lot of lobbying, conversations and we ensure the local host gets an opportunity. We make it a point that the government is engaged at the state , local and at the federal level. It is a big challenge but a very satisfying one when it comes together.



Travel And Tour World: What do you think of the MICE industry in the last 10 years?

Karen Bolinger: MICE market has grown from a small thing to highly competitive one. Our government has understood the true value of this and so it started building infrastructure. The bureau has been supported in different ways and it has become much more active and competitive place. We have to work much more harder!


Travel And Tour World: What is Melbourne Convention Bureau’s take on CSR ?

Karen Bolinger: CSR component has shifted from going to a destination and planting tree to how I leave a legacy behind in the community. It means policy change and involving tactical things, when we had the world’s aid conference here, we approached to the federal government. People could not enter Australia if they were infected with HIV . We approached the government for free travel for people infected with HIV. The Territory minister said that there will be no new infection of AIDS till 2020, and that’s a big statement. It is like communicating to the people that there will be a change in policy. It involves a lot of educating, researching and communicating to people who have the potential of getting aids. Legacy CSR has turned out to be more powerful than planting trees.


Travel And Tour World: So far you were taking care of the show and have been global player in organsing trade shows world- wide but now you have discontinued the contract.What is the main reason to select Talk2Media?

Karen Bolinger: We have been through a formal tender process it was rigorous and transparent, in the presentation Talk2 Media won. We have panel made up of external MCB participants and it was a joint collective decision.


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