Karen Bollinger

Ms Bolinger has more than 20 years’ industry experience. She has a strong background in branded sales and marketing across a diverse range of sectors, and has developed robust relationships within the business events industry. Prior to commencing her role at MCB, Ms Bolinger was the General Manager of Strategy and Marketing at the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW (RAS) and in addition, she has also held various roles at: Staging Connections Group Limited (SCVB); the Sydney Convention and Visitors Bureau; Sheraton on the Park, Sydney; and Renaissance Sydney Hotel. Ms Bolinger is Chair of the BestCities Global Alliance and ICCA Australia. She is the President of the Association of Australian Convention Bureaux (AACB) and the Victorian Advisory Board for the Starlight Foundation. She joined MCB as Chief Executive Officer in November, 2011.

Q: Melbourne has been ranked the number one sustainable city in the Asia-Pacific region for business events in the Global Destination Sustainability Index (GDS-Index) for the second consecutive year. Can you briefly describe how you achieved that?

  • We focussed on a set of unique strategies towards achieving a successful GDS-Index outcome.
  • We worked collaboratively with partners and stakeholders including Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (MCEC) and City of Melbourne in a working group focussed on delivering set goals relevant to achieving the sustainability success. Sustainability is a priority for City of Melbourne, hence the city is focussed on delivering results in the sector.
  • We recently launched a fully revamped website and the team leveraged its use to creatively communicate MCB and the industry’s efforts in the sustainability sector.
  • Collaborating with industry partners via our partnership model allowed a two-way communication to share relevant tools including but not limited to; case studies, newsletters and social media campaigns.
  • Working with City of Sydney towards a unified message targeted at Professional Conference Organisers (PCOs) encouraging them to have sustainability policies and third-party certifications in place. Given that a high number of PCOs are based in both cities, an opportunity was identified to educate and support them to improve sustainability results.
  • GDS is an improvement tool; taking constructive feedback from last year allowed us to ensure activities were relevant and targeted.

Q: In terms of sustainability what are the future projects Melbourne will be engaged to in the next years?  

MCB’s future projects in the sustainability sector include:

  • Engage and collaborate with a sustainability certification provider to offer our industry partners the opportunity to achieve a third-party certification which is recognised by the GDS Index. We will focus on encouraging partners to achieve a certification by offering regular education sessions.
  • We will continue to develop communication tools focussed on the sustainability efforts of the business events industry in Melbourne.
  • The team will work with City of Melbourne to develop a toolkit for event planners in Melbourne to provide them with resources to host a sustainable event.
  • Continue to identify opportunities within our digital tools to allow viewers to conveniently find businesses in the industry with sustainability policies and certifications in place.
  • Use our existing events to further educate the industry about sustainability.

“Melbourne is recognised as Australia’s knowledge capital and innovation hub, attracting some of the world’s largest and most prestigious conferences in the world.”

Q: It seems like Melbourne really has it all to be a MICE destination. But what are your key goals to achieve now? 

In 2019 we are focussing on increasing collaboration with our strategic partners and members to continue to maximise the return to their businesses and to the wider industry. We want to demonstrate the deep impact business events have in the wider community, therefore we have identified opportunities to diversify our partnerships outside of the industry to help us showcase this impact.

Melbourne is a knowledge capital and our relationship with local academics, universities and associations is key for being successful in our bids for international conferences. We plan to deepen these relationships to encourage more and effective local partnerships aligning with Victoria’s priority sectors. Our bid strategy depends on what the association’s objectives are for delegates attending international conferences. We will aim for deeper and more comprehensive analysis of delegates to help inform our ongoing bid strategy and understand the wider reaching effects of hosting business events.

Reinforce our thought leadership strategy by continuing the Melbourne Edge Event Series to engage, educate and stimulate partners, sponsors and the broader industry through presentations, forums, conversations and interactive activities throughout the year. Melbourne’s key success is attributed to our Team Melbourne approach. We will continue to apply this approach in everything we do.

Q: Melbourne is renowned as Australia’s knowledge capital and innovation hub. What does that mean in terms of MICE?  

Melbourne is recognised as Australia’s knowledge capital and innovation hub, attracting some of the world’s largest and most prestigious conferences in the world. The city is a leader in sectors such as health, science, engineering and technology and it continues to attract great minds to collaborate, innovate and deliver real impact to the wider community. Our city is home to 10 world-class universities, 13 worlds-class research institutes, 10 major teaching hospitals and a wide net of thinkers, creators, innovators and producers. Melbourne offers associations access to its world-leading research institutes and connections to academics to facilitate strong education programs, powerful knowledge sharing and fostering world-leading innovations. When associations select Melbourne as their destination for an international conference, they tap to into the reputation and resources, giving their delegates the opportunity to think differently, develop new solutions and deliver real change.

“Melbourne’s key success is attributed to our Team Melbourne approach. We will continue to apply this approach in everything we do.”

Q: Can you please in briefly explain to our readers Melbourne’s bidding strategy?  

Our bidding team works collaboratively to secure and deliver successful events that drive tangible outcomes and long-lasting legacies. We achieve this by working with associations, corporate organisations and event planners from around the world, along with our key stakeholders and local partners.

The bidding journey involves several steps and ways in which we can support on each step. We always tailor the bidding process according to the client’s requirements. We identify conferences that reinforce Melbourne’s global reputation as the smart capital and that are aligned with the states’ priorities and future industry sectors. We also focus in attracting events that will have an impact on the community by delivering legacy outcomes and contribution that goes beyond the dollars.

Q: What would you say is the secret of MCB’s success?  

Our ‘Team Melbourne’ approach allows us to win major international conferences and incentive programs. By working together with major stakeholders, local and state government and over 250 industry partners we ensure we bring the city together to work towards the same goals.

Our infrastructure paves the way for highly successful conferences and events, with world-leading conference facilities and venues, a 24/7 international airport, excellent connectivity, quality accommodation and an extensive transport system. We offer the highest concentration of conference facilities in Australia.

Melbourne offers a wide range of immersive experiences which delegates are looking for. Our city is renowned as a vibrant and multicultural with an exciting dining scene to match. Melbourne is Australia’s major events capital, with an ever-growing year-round calendar of events. With over 350 annual events to choose from, delegates can experience world-class sporting, cultural, art, history, fashion and dining events all year round.