Conference stays annual

The Bus Association of Victoria has again railed against calls to make its expo a biennial event

Conference stays annual
Conference stays annual

By Ian Porter | July 16, 2013

Suggestions that the BusVic Maintenance Conference and Expo, held in early July each year for the past 59 years, should be pushed back to once every two years have been firmly repulsed.

The idea of staging the Expo every second year would mirror decisions made by some interstate bus show promoters, but such a move would undermine the Expo’s standing in the bus community, at home and overseas, says BusVic’s executive director Chris Lowe.

And it would defy the wishes of the majority of BusVic’s members, he adds.

"The whole (2013) event was a sellout. We had to turn a few people away," Lowe says, "and some suppliers that wanted to exhibit.

"It would be ludicrous to do the event less frequently than annually," he says.

However, one of Victoria’s biggest bus operators, Ventura, is not so sure.

"I have always liked the event, but it is too frequent for me," says Michael Hourn, general manager, fleet, for the Ventura group.

"The content is excellent and they do a really good job. It just comes around way to quick."

Hourn says the Expo side of the conference holds little attraction because, as one of the largest operators, Ventura has a constant string of suppliers touting their new wares right through the year.

He is also mindful of the cost. In 2012, after Ventura acquired the Grenda company, Ventura sent "more than 15" delegates to the conference.

This year Ventura sent four people, but Hourn says it was not a reflection of the company’s recent loss in the major bus route tender in Melbourne.

He says Ventura would probably send 15-plus to the 2014 event.

Chris Lowe says that, while he recognises the pressures that suppliers are under in this weak market, he could not contemplate switching to a biennial event when he was turning away suppliers that wanted to exhibit and delegates who wanted to buy tickets.

"The exhibition was very successful. It was slightly smaller than last year because we decided to have one less tent," says Lowe.

"The conference program was the largest, most extensive program we have ever had, with four streams."

Lowe says he was conscious of the industry consolidation that has seen the number of member/operators drop from 600 to 470 since 2008.

"The wider issue is the reducing number of operators," he says.

"Suppliers are losing customers because operators are selling and exiting."

Lowe says the maintenance conference will be 60 years old next year and that BusVic might have to tweak it around the edges in coming years.

"It might grow bigger or smaller, depending on the economic and operating times that are upon us."

While the conference and Expo are strongly supported by BusVic members, Lowe says they are not the entire target audience.

"Our event is not just for our members. It’s a global event. There are a lot of people outside Victoria that depend on us to have an annual event," Lowe says.

"It is the largest bus and coach conference and exhibition in the southern hemisphere and we had a record number of international delegates this year."

Lowe says he was pleased that the event also drew presenters from around the world so they could give delegates an idea of how things are done overseas.

"That’s part of our remit, to educate owners. We do things in a certain way in Victoria, but many operators do not get the chance to see the way things are done in other countries.

"They are flat out working in their family businesses. That’s why we decided we would bring the world to them."

Lowe was very pleased with the way the industrial relations stream organized by the Australian Public Transport Industrial Association, was received.

"It was particularly pleasing to see the industrial section, the APTIA section, so well attended."

Lowe says this reflected the operators’ mindfulness of how the whole industrial scene could change after the next election.

"I was particularly pleased with Senator Eric Abetz’s performance in the industrial session and I thought Bruce Billson’s opening was wonderful."

· PHOTO: Victoria’s Public Transport Minister Terry Mulder, left, with BusVic CEO Chris Lowe

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