Asia Pacific Australia

Karen Bolinger steps down as Melbourne bureau chief

The formidable industry leader will take time off before exploring future opportunities.

After 7.5 years at the helm of the Melbourne Convention Bureau (MCB), Karen Bolinger will step down from her position as CEO. Her last day in office will be this Friday, 5 April 2019. Bolinger plans to take some “well-deserved time off” before exploring other opportunities.

MCB general manager, bidding and business development, Julia Swanson, has assumed the role of acting CEO while the recruitment process begins.

In a letter of thanks published this week, Bolinger acknowledged the support of the MCB board, her team at the bureau, and the global meetings industry at large.

“Thank you for the immense honour of serving this business for the past 7.5 years and Team Melbourne for their support during my time at MCB,” she says.

“[The MCB] team have made me very proud to be at the helm, and I can assure you – they are passionate, professional and committed in their quest to win business for our city. I am confident that I leave the MCB well positioned for the future.”

Under Bolinger’s guidance, the bureau has delivered its most successful years on record, and with the support of Visit Victoria, the 18/19 period is expected to deliver its highest ever economic contribution of almost AU$500 million.

Bolinger and her team have led the repositioning of Melbourne’s profile as an innovative business events destination by highlighting the city’s intellectual capacity and knowledge sectors. This highlighted the business events sector as a key economic driver for the local economy.

Building on this approach, under Bolinger’s leadership MCB developed the ‘Team Melbourne’ philosophy, driving collaboration across government, academia and research sectors, together with the tourism industry, to secure business events for the state.

Bolinger’s tenacity and leadership was recognised when she was awarded the 2018 Joint Meetings Industry Council Unity Award, which celebrates individuals who have made significant contributions to the advancement of the business events industry.

MCB board chair, Chris Barlow, thanked Bolinger for her commitment: “Karen’s tenure she was integral in delivering strategic direction to the many boards she sat on as well as leading the transition for MCB to become part of Visit Victoria.

“Karen has also suffered a significant personal loss over the last couple of years which she has worked tirelessly through, and she has decided that the time has come to stop and take some time out for self-care. The MCB Board wish to respect and support her decision as she leaves MCB to take some time out and consider her next steps.”

On behalf of Biz Events Asia, I’d also like to thank Karen for her bravery, wit and unwavering leadership. She is a role model for all of us, and her departure will be deeply felt across the APAC region.