by Terence Baker | November 01, 2004

Leigh Harry"Australia is perceived as a dream destination. A lot of air miles are being used so that attendees can make the trip out here."

Leigh Harry is chief executive of the Melbourne Exhibition & Convention Centre in Melbourne, Australia, which is poised for a major expansion set to finish in July 2008. Previously, Harry served as vice president of the International Congress & Convention Association and deputy chairman of the Melbourne Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Where does your business come from? We get mainly international associations. Some are from the United States and Europe, but Asia now is the dominant source. We plan on focusing our efforts there, especially in China. Chinese events still remain in China, but I believe that will change. It is a huge market, and I believe our enlarged convention center will capitalize on that country’s global business expansion.

Are Americans coming to Australia for events? Yes, Australia still is perceived as a dream destination, one also very popular with spouses. We’ve noticed a lot of air miles are being used so that attendees can make the trip out here.

Do you compete with other Australian cities? Yes, mainly Brisbane and Sydney, but we are not interested in just shifting existing business around the country. Attracting Southeast Asia is the goal.

What is the main difference between Australian and U.S. convention centers? Centers in the United States tend to be more aimed at trade shows, while in Australia there also is an emphasis on unique performance spaces, places where the arts can flourish.