Meet one of Perth’s best known business events figures

who chose a career in business events over foreign affairs

By Joyce DiMascio (original source)

You hear often that people don’t set out to have a career in business events – they fall into it.

That was the case for Tracy Baker, Director of Sales for the association and not-for-profit sectors at Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre (PCEC).

She’s become one of Western Australia’s most well-known business events professionals.

Before kicking off her business events career in Perth, Baker worked at the Australian Embassy in Lisbon, Portugal as the Ambassador’s Assistant and Archivist. It was the period when the erudite Gareth Evans was Foreign Minister in the Hawke/Keating Labor Government. A period when Australia was beginning to have a grown-up role in international diplomacy.

Formative years for Baker and seminal in shaping her knowledge of the importance of diplomacy, discretion and attention to the detail.

Travelling and working overseas was part of her plan. The Lisbon posting was a very swish thing to be doing as a young adventurous woman. Close to London, Paris and Rome – so she could combine work and travel.

After returning to Perth to visit family she took some leave and decided to help out a PCO for a bit of pocket money. It was meant to be a temporary thing, but instead of returning to the Department of Foreign Affairs in Canberra she stayed on in Perth and her career in our sector began.

Her first big roles were at Burswood Entertainment Complex and then the PCEC where she has been for almost two decades.

Baker has played a key role in helping to bring business to Perth and building its reputation as a welcoming and exciting place for events.

She speaks highly of the partnerships with Business Events Perth and Business Events Australia. She loves her job at PCEC and being part of the bigger team that secures important state, national and international events.

Baker doesn’t takes Perth’s current return to delivering events for granted. She is very sensitive to the difficulties being experienced in the east.

For while Perth is open for business again and operating with no physical space restrictions, Baker knows many in our industry are doing it very tough.

“We are grateful we can operate and have local events,” she says.

On the day we spoke, PCEC was having the busiest day in months with the Association of Women in Mining Conference, Source Kids Disability Expo and six graduation ceremonies all happening back-to-back.

But despite the value and impact of local business, Perth was missing its national and international events, she said.

Baker said short-lead-time inquiries were growing, and other opportunities were also coming through. For example, the AMA has holding its inaugural state conference for WA, MEDCON21 from June 18-20, 2022.

This has been developed because of the travel restriction and the AMA says it aims to give doctors a world-class medical conference without leaving the state. It will be an inter-college medical conference developed by doctors for doctors.

And while the 21/22 financial year has taken a big hit, the calendar for 2024 is looking better and Perth has already secured two international events.

The 18th International Conference and Exhibition on Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG 18) in 2016 was possibly the most challenging of events hosted by PCEC

Baker works very closely with the association market, and she says that while there is good will and intent, conversion is hard due to uncertainties.

“We’ve had lots of proposals and inquiries but the reticence in conversion is due to the constraints of the operating environment. There were national events in March, May and June 2022 – but as site tours and associated meetings were scheduled for the back end of 2021, the intent was there but all that has fallen apart due to the travel restrictions and lockdowns.”

Baker says there is lots of client goodwill and most are rescheduling. Some have rescheduled three times.

As a long time industry member, Baker has experienced lots of challenges in the past. It gives her a broad view of the current setbacks which she says are far worse than the experiences such as the Ansett collapse, SARs, and the global financial crisis which started in 2007.

The COVID-19 pandemic “has had an incredible global impact” and she is concerned about its long-term implications in Australia for staffing, skills and confidence.

She says it’s going to take patience, persistence and perseverance to get through.

And that is Baker’s work mantra even in the best of times.

There have been many highlights in her career. She puts great emphasis on the “client’s journey leading up to them walking into the convention centre for their event”. The legacy comes from how well that phase is handled, she says, and she personally has a great passion for this period in the client relationship.

So, what are the standout projects for Baker?

The 2011 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, commonly known as CHOGM 2011 was a standout especially its opening ceremony.

“I don’t think I have ever seen anything quite so moving,” she said.

CHOGM 2011 held at PCEC is a standout event for Tracy Baker

And the 18th International Conference and Exhibition on Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG 18) in 2016 was possibly the most challenging of events hosted by PCEC. She says Arinex, ETF and Perth Expo did an extraordinary job with 8,700 people in attendance and PCEC creating additional spaces to accommodate the range of events.

Baker’s passion for her work is well known in the industry.

She’s one of the most knowledgeable players – discreet, professional and considered always.

She’s one of the key people that have helped to build WA’s international reputation as a place for business events.

She has been part of many missions overseas to promote PCEC to international associations – she knows the market extremely well and for this reason is a great asset to the business events economy of the west.

You can see how the experience in foreign affairs and trade equipped her well for our industry.

She’s a very polished operator and just maybe that stint in Lisbon at the Australian Embassy has had a defining influence on the way Baker has conducted herself all these years.

She is after all a fine ambassador for WA and Australia.

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