Future of meetings

AUSTRALIA

HEADING DOWN UNDER

Whether the event you are next planning is for a select group of 16 or a substantial crowd of 6,000, Australia prides itself on being able to accommodate all.

“The unprecedented level of infrastructure development currently underway in Australia means we have the business event venues, accommodation, technology and service providers that can make any event a success, from a small incentive group to one numbering in the thousands,” says John O’Sullivan, managing director Tourism Australia.

If Australia isn’t on your radar as a MICE destination yet, it may be worth bringing it into sharp focus now: Research recently conducted by Tourism Australia found that Australia is strongly perceived as a quality destination in international markets, rating extremely well from a business events perspective in all 10 surveyed markets. Compared to 45 other destinations, it ranked number one or two across the board in this research.

"The availability of exclusive experiences in spectacular natural settings, good quality food and wine, and friendly welcoming people are three key triggers to choosing a destination, and Australia scores highly for international business events buyers in these areas," explains O'Sullivan.

VENUES

You'll find quality convention centres in all of Australia's major cities – from Darwin in the North to Melbourne in the South. Even Hobart, on the island of Tasmania, has its own waterfront Function and Conference Centre with six event spaces.

All convention centres – whatever their location – boast flexible and functional space with many boosting their appeal with new features and undergoing improvement works.

For example, ICC Sydney, which is capable of hosting three separated, self-sufficient, concurrent events as well as an 8,000-seat plenary, has invested an additional AUD 1 million in new industry-leading audio visual equipment, bolstering its world class event delivery capabilities.

Re-opening this year following an AUD 200 million investment, is Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (MCEC). The 20,000-square-metre expansion includes 9,000 square metres of flexible, multi-purpose event space, new exhibition halls, additional meeting rooms, a banquet room and the Goldfields Café and Bar. Once completed, the new space will make MCEC’s the largest convention and exhibition space in Australia, with an increased total size of over 70,000 square metres.

Others undergoing refurbishments include Cairns Convention Centre, which is being given an AUD 176 million upgrade with new meeting rooms and exhibition space planned, as well as the creation of a new arrival zone, upgrades of solar panels, lifts, air-conditioning and parking, and Adelaide Convention Centre. The two-phase AUD 397 million redevelopment is now complete and has boosted maximum capacity to 3,500 for plenary sessions and the Centre’s overall footprint to 20,000 square metres of multi-purpose space.

And sports-minded event professionals will remember that Australia's Gold Coast was the location for this year's Commonwealth Games, which has provided a positive spin-off for the city -  sports, health and wellness conferences are on the rise, with an increase in sport related and allied health associations confirmed to meet on the Gold Coast.

The city's largest centre The Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre has facilities for intimate meetings for 10, or a conference for 6,000.

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WHERE TO STAY

Running in tandem with many convention centre developments are those in the hotel sector, opening up more options for future events.

If the west coast location of Perth is one of consideration for your next conference, you'll be well-served for hotels, particularly if you seek some with multiple dining and entertainment options close by.

The Elizabeth Quay redevelopment, currently underway, will cover nearly 10 hectares of prime land in central Perth, and feature boardwalks and promenades fringed by an entertainment and retail precinct. Part of the development includes a new Ritz-Carlton hotel with 204 suites, meeting and event spaces as well as a rooftop bar which is set to open in 2019.

The 500-bedroom Crown Perth is the city's largest hotel and boasts panoramic city views from its Swan River location. As well as providing a bed for the night, the hotel offers multiple dining, nightlife, entertainment and shopping experiences, as well as a signature Crown Spa, making it an ideal choice for time-strapped delegates.

If you're looking for similar in Sydney, consider the 600-bedroom Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour Hotel with direct access to ICC Sydney, or Hyatt Regency Sydney at Darling Harbour, a redeveloped property with a total of 900 rooms including 230 new rooms in a purpose-built tower and outdoor bar overlooking Darling Harbour.

Considering conferencing in Cairns? The Crystalbrook Collection is building three new luxury hotels there. The first – Riley – a five-star resort including a lagoon pool and private beach, is set to open in August.

The aforementioned expansion of the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre will also include the creation of a new 347-room Novotel hotel, while Brisbane is bristling with excitement following the completion of an AUD 30 million upgrade and refurbishment of the 304-bedroom Rydges Southbank Brisbane, which has direct access to the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre, and the opening of the 305-bedroom six-star W Hotel Brisbane.

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WINING AND DINING

As one of the world's leading wine producing regions, you are guaranteed to find a glass (or bottle) of something special to sip at the end of a busy day networking that hasn't been made far from where you've had your meeting if you opt for Australia.

Indeed, 30 wineries are within 35 minutes of Canberra city centre, while Yarra Valley wineries are a 50km drive from the centre of Melbourne and over 200 cellar doors are within an hour’s drive of Adelaide.

You'll also find plenty of dining destinations delivering delicious dishes designed to accompany Australia's finest wines.

In Adelaide, head to Orana (meaning 'welcome' in Aboriginal) for a true taste of Australia while larger venue Peel Street, just 650m from the convention centre, serves a mix of both Middle Eastern and Asian cuisine.

Looking to impress your dining companion/s with your choice of eatery? Celebrity chef Matt Moran, a finalist for Chef of the Year in 2017, owns Aria restaurant in Brisbane, while Urbane – in the same city – won three Chef hats (one of the highest Australian restaurant accolades), was voted number one restaurant in Brisbane and number six in the whole of Australia.

If celebrity chef status is of importance, consider Neil Perry's Spice Temple in Melbourne with 70-covers in the main restaurant and a private 9Dragons Dining Room for those looking to book a group dinner. The Press Club, owned by Masterchef Australia judge and award-winning chef George Calombaris, is also an option for high end modern Greek cuisine with a private dining room for 18.

When in Darwin, relax with a drink at one of the outdoor bars along the Darwin Waterfront precinct before heading to a nearby restaurant for some fresh seafood. Pee Wee's at the Point is renowned for its exceptional seafood and tables at the water's edge, while Char has a mixture of land and sea options, including new menu addition – jellyfish.

Fish and seafood are also specialities at Gold Coast restaurants. Bars and restaurants follow the water's edge to allow al fresco wining and dining with dining options including Lupo, one of the Gold Coast's best new restaurants of last year or The Fish House, listed within Gourmet Traveller Magazine's Top 100 best restaurants in Australia.

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A REWARDING STAY

For those looking to hook on some extra days to a conference or event, or for incentive packages, rest assured, Australia has plenty to offer the bleisure traveller and to reward high achievers.

As Business Events Australia says on its website Australia offers experiences that can’t be found anywhere else in the world, from snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef to sailing past the Sydney Opera House.

For active types there are surfing lessons on Bondi Beach or kayaking in Byron Bay while foodies will find plenty to tantalise the tastebuds: Try a craft beer tour of Sydney, or an insight into wine-making at many wineries.

Events designed to tap into a team's creativity, expand knowledge and learning, or help them bond with nature also abound. The options are endless and designed to inspire, says Tourism Australia's O'Sullivan.

“Australia is home to some of the world’s most inspirational business events destinations and ‘can’t be bought’ experiences," he says. "Australia’s innovative event delivery capabilities, friendly welcoming people and unique landscapes combine with our exceptional food and wine and high-quality products and experiences to deliver above expectations for incentive events."

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BUSINESS EVENTS FUND PROGRAMME

While Australia is clearly an attractive proposition for event organisers and their delegates, it also offers financial incentives to those considering it as the location for their next conference.

Managed by Tourism Australia’s business events unit, Business Events Australia, the Business Events Bid Fund Program (BFP) is designed to increase the conversion of new international business events for Australia through the offer of financial support at the critical bidding stage. The BFP is designed to deliver conversion of business in situations where Australia is bidding against international competitors for the right to host the business event.

While the funding can't be used to subsidise administrative, logistics or marketing costs for international bids, it will support expenditure on goods and services within Australia for confirmed business events, such as accommodation, venue hire and transport.

The support packages, which are only available to confirmed events taking place in Australia are a key way to help organisers put on the very best events Down Under while also ensuring 'Australia maintains a competitive edge against other international destinations', says O'Sullivan.

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DID YOU KNOW?

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Australian English has some interesting phrases. For example, if someone asks you if you've put in some 'hard yakka' at your meeting they are asking if you've worked hard.

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Canberra was created in 1908 as a compromise when Sydney and Melbourne both wanted to be the capital city.

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In 1856, stonemasons in Melbourne downed tools and stopped working in protest over their employers' refusal to accept their demands for reduced working hours. Their protests led to the introduction of 8-hour working days, later adopted world-wide.

Getting There: By Air

Getting There: By Air

Flying is the best way to cover Australia’s large distances in a short time. Australia’s domestic airlines – including Qantas, Virgin Australia, Jetstar, Tiger Airways and Rex – serve all state capital cities and many regional cities.

By Train

By Train

TrainLink runs services between Sydney and the regional centres of New South Wales, Melbourne, Brisbane and Canberra while V-Line trains connect Melbourne with regional hubs in Victoria. Queensland Rail covers Queensland and TransWA crisscrosses through Western Australia.

By Road

By Road

Greyhound operates coaches throughout Australia and car hire is also available.

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