CEO message: BESydney’s 50th Anniversary year
It’s astonishing to think how far we’ve come. That from a small group of passionate and driven businesspeople with the courage to open Sydney to the world, we’ve grown into a renowned industry leader.
When I think about what it’s like to lead an organisation like this one, I feel privileged. 50 years in the making, it’s clear that we’ve come from a long line of leaders with a drive to have an impact for our city and community. Born to meet the increasing demand of business travelers, we’ve since found independence and a new identity.
And here we stand today, five decades on, with one remarkable story to tell.
Before we look ahead, let’s take a step back
Tourism was booming in the 1960s.
Initially trading as ‘Sydney, Host City of the South Pacific’ and later ‘Sydney Visitors Bureau’, our first role was to organise accommodation and tourist trips for visitors, including an influx of American soldiers taking their R&R leave during the Vietnam War.
By 1969, we were inspired by the idea of sharing information between business leaders, to gain a competitive edge and attract more revenue. Despite funding challenges, our founders saw the potential in building conference business and commissioned a report to assess Sydney’s global position.
A report commissioned by the organisation in 1970 found that Australia was attracting just over one per cent of the world’s global meetings at the time, a third of which were hosted in Sydney. Not long after this, the team sought and won their first conference – the American Society of Travel Agents in 1971, which brought 2,200 delegates with it.
And just like that, the wheels were in motion.
Partners in success from 1969 to today
Today, we’re focused on the broader benefits of bringing global meetings to Australia: an advanced information economy, long-term legacies and increased soft power (to name a few).
We’ve transformed from a tourism, accommodation and information service, into a specialist organisation providing bidding expertise to international clients, local industry, business, governments and academia.
As we’ve grown, so too has the industry. And as competition has increased, we’ve innovated and raised the bar for professionalism, strategy and competitiveness. With Australia now ranked 13th* as a country host for global meetings, and Sydney ranked 25th* as a city host, I can safely say we’ve done our city and founders proud.
But this wouldn’t be possible with our incredible partners who’ve been with us since the beginning, so I’d like to acknowledge them here. I’d also like to thank our ongoing partners in industry and Government, as well as our Global Ambassadors and staff past, present and future.
Coming together around a shared purpose
For us, this is a passion project. We create and capture value. Not just $1 billion every five years in direct expenditure into the economy – which is significant – but the global meetings we secure and the people we partner with have social impact as well.
Leading BESydney has been a personal journey for me. When we won the bid in 2003 to host the 4th International AIDS Society Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention in 2007– bringing the world to Sydney to showcase how Australia was dealing with the biggest public health crisis of the 20th century – it gave me total clarity on what we do, and why we do it.
You see, at the height of the AIDS epidemic, I was living in Sydney, surrounded by the community of people most impacted.
Moments like this in my career have inspired me in so many other areas of my work, most notably leading the charge on new research into the social legacies of global meetings, as well as opening our Asia office in 2004 – to bring more inspiring global meetings to our shores.
Thinking of what’s to come
There’s no doubt we’ve come a long way. Still, there are opportunities to think bigger and brighter going forward.
Sydney is so much more than just a beautiful city with a jaw-dropping harbour. We’ve shown that we’re a thriving intellectual and innovation hub, with the capacity to make a significant mark on the world.
In this sense, BESydney plays an important role in helping the private and public sectors come together to shed a light on this. It’s important to push for more investments in facilities like ICC Sydney – and to find new ways to strengthen the relationships between people, organisations and place.
Looking ahead, we’re ready to be the leaders we’ve become – to continue creating impact at home and abroad that drives real change and inspires genuine progress.