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Tourism Advisory Forum November 9

Venue: National Convention Centre, Canberra


Nick Mitzevich Director National Gallery of Australia

Michael Matthews CEO Canberra Convention Bureau

Michael Thomson Head of Aviation Canberra Airport

Jonathan Kobus Director Visit Canberra


Nick Mitzevich - Director National Gallery of Australia (NGA)

NGA Presentation November 2021
Download PDF • 4.89MB

The NGA has reopened and with state borders restrictions easing the visitor numbers are improving. Mr Mitzevich noted that more than 75% of the audience to the National Gallery comes from somewhere other than Canberra.

Mr Mitzevich said he applauds the ACT government for recently talking about how we can elevate the national collections because they're so important and such a strength to the identity of the city.

Mr Mitzevich gave an overview of the Botticelli to Van Gogh exhibition.

  • It was five years in the making

  • Produced $47.2m in economic impact, assessed independently

  • 200,975 unique visitors

  • 77% of visitors were from interstate

  • Generated 212,447 room nights.

Mr Mitzevich said the goal with major exhibitions is to engage an audience, not make money. The NGA’s primary focus is bringing an audience to the gallery and the ACT and elevating the role of art across Australia. Mr Mitzevich thanked the exhibition partners and patrons, noting they are an important part of the marketing mix and in allowing major exhibitions to break even.

Mr Mitzevich gave an overview of major exhibitions at the NGA:

Jeffrey Smart - the NGA’s Jeffrey Smart summer blockbuster opens on 11 December and continues until mid May. He was one of the most important masters of the 20th century and influenced generations of art lovers. This exhibition marks the centenary milestone of Jeffery Smart’s birth. It features 81 loans from across Australia and presents an overview of his career from the late 1940s. There is a range of exhibition partners including the Seven Network who will support it with a $2 million advertising campaign around Australia. Mr Mitzevich noted the NGA has put in place a range of measures to give people comfort and confidence to attend.

Ceremony - opening 26 March, it is a comprehensive survey of contemporary Aboriginal art curated by Hetti Perkins, an Arrernte and Kalkadoon woman from Central Australia.

Know my name – an exhibition of Australian women artists from 1900 to now (part two), on now until 26 January 2022.

Project 1: Sarah Lucas – an exhibition of works from this international artist who was part of a movement out of the 1980s that turn art upside down. It’s now open and running until 18 April 2022.

Mr Mitzevich also noted that while he is Director, the National Gallery ‘will continue to advance and be cheeky about what it is to manage and advance the national collection’. He cited the commission of Australian artist Lindy Lee to produce ‘both a sculpture and an architectural feature’ which will be in the gallery forecourt when finished in several years.


Michael Matthews - CEO Canberra Convention Bureau

CCB Presentation November 2021
Download PDF • 7.62MB

Mr Matthews noted that business events had been hit hard with COVID and it has meant two years without a platform to showcase what Canberra aspires to be or what we are good at.

Mr Matthews said there’s a lot of good reasons why people should come here, noting Canberra’s incredible advantages and that the bureau goes out and tells those stories. These include the national institutions, parliament, the embassies and many other unique things that you won't find anywhere else in Australia. He also noted Canberra’s really great story to tell about our world leadership in vaccinations rates.

Mr Matthews gave a presentation summarising the major features of the Bureau’s work under three focus areas: knowledge, culture and influence. He noted that business events are a great way to bring these things together.

In 2019 business events were worth over a billion dollars to the Canberra economy (refer to detailed statistics in this presentation). Mr Matthews noted that a city like Canberra needs to give people a reason to come, and the work of the last 10 years has set a foundation for business event visitation, including:

  • the best airport in Australia

  • Indigenous culture

  • accommodation that is really eye catching and that tells a fantastic story

  • social venues where you can do some really interesting things with food and local wine.

However Mr Matthews noted an issue, with no investment in infrastructure in Canberra in the last 10 years. He used the example that the National Convention Bureau can only do one major event per week in the peak period, where ideally it should be able to do two. He said a conversation about infrastructure is important.

Mr Matthews outlined the Canberra Convention Bureau is targeting business events in the sectors where Canberra has a natural advantage – Defence, space, cyber security, heath and sports sciences, social services and agri-tech. Mr Matthews ended by saying that business events is a steady stream of reliable economic return for the ACT that needs to be invested in. He is happy the ACT Government has done that through the last budget and through Visit Canberra.


Michael Thomson - Head of Aviation Canberra Airport

Download PDF • 7.48MB

In October 2021 there were 5500 passengers through Canberra airport – the equivalent of 60% of just one day in 2019 (see presentation for statistics).

The airport is now back to operating 7 days per week, with six airlines flying again to eight destinations. There will be 200 flights this week and 220 next week.

Mr Thomson highlighted:

  • Rex Airlines and the very low starting fares for flights to Sydney and Melbourne

  • Jetstar flights from Canberra starting 17 December, flying five times per week to Brisbane. This is the result of discussions over many years and it’s hoped it will open more opportunities for visitation to Canberra.

Mr Thomson said that international travel is still a little unclear. He said Canberra has shown it’s a viable market and the airport is in discussions with airlines that have services here. Mr Thomson hopes a direct New Zealand flight will progress and he thinks it’s viable.

Quarantine free travel is now possible from the USA, UK, Thailand, Singapore and Fiji.

Mr Thomson said the outlook is:

  • short term – an increase in leisure travel as borders reopen

  • by February, business travel will start to pick up again

  • then more ‘bubble safe’ international destinations.


Jonathan Kobus - Director Visit Canberra

VisitCanberra Presentation November 2021
Download PDF • 1.93MB

Mr Kobus welcomed the further easing of restrictions from Friday. Mr Kobus noted that Canberra can’t rely on trading with ourselves only and that open borders are important. With travel now possible between NSW and Victoria it means we are open to 95% of what was our domestic overnight market in 2019 when trading normally.

The focus now is to capitalise on the leisure based market, looking towards education and business markets coming back in 2022. Mr Kobus noted that some properties are fully booked with visitors for Summernats.

Visit Canberra’s approach remains consistent with the framework for recovery (see presentation for details).

A local market campaign from now until Christmas – more than our home. Visit Canberra will be asking people to nominate what they think city is known for and translating that into examples with local media partners producing content. It will encourage visitation by friends and relatives and show this destination as a place that is the safest place in the world to visit with our vaccination rates.

December to January – interstate summer approach themed more than. It will highlight our natural assets and the great things you can do here over summer. It is backed by:

  • some major campaign activity working in partnership with Rex and Jetstar

  • a creative campaign revolving around giving the gift of travel and Canberra experiences rather than material items.

From December – conversion partnerships focused on NSW and Victoria in partnership with Expedia and a digital partnership with Concrete Playground which has previously proven successful.

Mr Kobus highlighted upgrades to with new imagery and destination builders making it easier for people to plan their visit. There are also new experience guides covering nature, culture, family and dining out, and precinct guides covering the major Canberra precincts and the things people can find in those precincts.

Social media remains important for Visit Canberra - their Instagram account now has nearly 85,000 followers – it’s all about sharing people’s experience in Canberra.

Mr Kobus noted the major event fund which remains a key part of driving visitation. Since it started nearly $12m has been invested, generating over $900m in economic activity for the city. This summer they investing with the National Gallery of Australia to promote the Jeffrey Smart exhibition to interstate audiences, the National Museum to promote their Ancient Greece exhibition, an upcoming exhibition at the National Film and Sound Archive, Summernats and major theatre productions. These type of events are key to getting people to choose Canberra instead of other destinations in what will be a very competitive domestic market.

Mr Kobus noted the recent launch of the tourism cooperative marketing fund with two grants programs available. Details of the funding and dates can be found on the attached presentation . Early next year the COVID safe co-investment programme will be launched with $750,000 available in matched funding designed to encourage investment in businesses, new products and experiences.

Mr Kobus discussed the tourism reboot program which had great support from the industry in phase one. There will be another phase of both face to face and online programmes available in early 2022, with more information to be released shortly.


Chair of the Canberra Region Tourism Leaders Forum, Dr David Marshall closed the meeting with a brief overview of the transition to recovery forum which is being convened by Minister for Business, Tara Cheyne. Tourism is well represented on that forum, with the aim to develop an economic plan to roll out 2022-23. Mr Marshall said more updates will be provided as that unfolds.

Next Tourism Advisory Forum: Monday 6 December 2021 with the ACT Chief Minister and the Singaporean High Commissioner as special guest speakers.

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