Going for sporting gold What has a major sporting event got to do with association meetings? Plenty of good found the Gold Coast, but not quite for Japan yet, writes Karen Yue I t was on November 11, 2011 when the Common- wealth Games Federation General Assembly an- nounced that the Gold Coast in Australia would be the host city for the 2018 Common- wealth Games (Gold Coast 2018). The victory led to even more sporting events being drawn to the sunny destina- tion. In the year leading up to the Games in April 2018, the Gold Coast welcomed the Pan Pacific Swimming Champi- onships, Sudirman Cup for badminton, triathlons by the International Triathlon Union, and more. But another positive development also emerged. According to Anna Case, direc- tor – global business events with Destination Gold Coast, many sporting associations relocated their headquarters to the Gold Coast following the announcement on Gold Coast 2018. “Our local city council and state government collaborate very closely on big events like the Games because they require a lot of resources to support,” said Case, adding that it was also imperative to get more events into the city to use the new and improved facilities that were developed to support the Games. With the stronger presence of sporting associations in the Gold Coast, the destination started to see “a lot of sporting events and meetings rolling our way”. By mid-2018, the city secured at least 47 events under the category of Sports, Health and Wellness, most of which are association meet- ings scheduled to take place between 2016 and 2020. Association meetings that have taken place at press time include: International Foot- wear Biomechanics Sympo- sium 2017; Sports Chiropractic Symposium 2018; Australian & New Zealand Sports Law Association 2018; and World Squash Federation Level 2 Course & World Coaches Conference & World Squash Federation Coaching Meeting 2018. While the Gold Coast has been rising as a global meet- ings city, Case said winning the hosting rights to Gold Coast 2018 has further elevated the destination’s profile, as well as that of the wider Queensland state. “We are already a contender (for international meetings), particularly in our core mar- kets. However, securing such a prominent event – although sporting events are different from conferences, the logistical parts are similar – puts us in the global media (limelight).” Over in Japan, where the 2019 Rugby World Cup will take place across 12 cities from September 20 to Novem- ber 2, and the 2020 Summer Olympics will be held in Tokyo from July 24 to August 9, local convention bureau representa- tives have reported a rise in interest and enquiries from associations keen to meet in the country. However, nothing has been converted into actual bookings at press time. Etsuko Kawasaki, executive director of the Japan Conven- tion Bureau, said the enquir- ies were “not restricted to the sector of sports and related “Our strategy is to get sporting events that have a confer- ence component. Quite a lot of them have that, such as an annual general meet- ing or a coaches’ conference.” Anna Case Director – global business events, Destination Gold Coast areas”, and pointed to the upcoming G20 Summit & Min- isterial Meetings scheduled for June 2019 in Osaka as another catalyst for the spike in plan- ners’ interest. Hironobu Fujimura, director of sales, business events team, with the Tokyo Convention & Visitors Bureau (TCVB), has also observed a leap in the number of enquiries from associations and meeting planners, again for events not restricted to sports and related areas. To covert that interest into bookings, Fujimura said the TCVB Business Events Team is working with the Tokyo Metropolitan Government to entice large associations with the provision of financial and in-kind support. TCVB has chosen to cast a wider net to lure meetings to Japan on the back of the high- profile Games, preferring not to focus only on sports, sport medicine, sport technology or health and wellness-related associations. Limited supply of event venues, hotel accommodation and travel services in the host cities of both the 2019 Rugby World Cup and 2020 Summer Olympics – already stretched thin by Japan’s fiery popular- ity among corporate event planners and holidaymakers – have affected associations’ willingness to give Japan their final nod right away. Susan Maria Ong, MICE di- rector, Asia Pacific with Japan National Tourism Organiza- tion, said many enquiries for large-scale business events keen on Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto were being waitlisted as far back as mid-2017. These would likely only be con- firmed once the 2020 Summer Olympics is over. Justin August, director of business development with Osaka-based Sakura Interna- tional, said: “(While) there has certainly been an increase (in enquiries from overseas business event clients), as- sociation enquiries have fallen as organisers do not want to schedule meetings at the same time as a major sports event due to the pressure this puts on accommodation and venues. “Even now we only have a couple of confirmed bookings so the percentage (of busi- ness conversion) is very low. High pricing in Japan means overseas agencies are fishing for comparative quotes and reluctant to sign off on any- thing until they are sure they are getting a good deal.” August expects to see more confirmed meeting bookings over the next six months.