Regional Victoria’s Hopes Renewed

Expected population growth in regional Victoria is seeing a raft of new infrastructure and renewed vigour to attract more meetings, reports Graeme Kemlo.

More than one quarter of Victorians, almost 1.5 million of them, live in regional areas – a figure expected to grow by almost 30 per cent by 2036. To ensure this growth is sustainable the Victorian Government’s Regional Growth Fund has $1 billion set aside for infrastructure and community programs, among them, a $20 million regional aviation fund and $10 million specifically for regional tourism as the state seeks to build “strategic tourism and cultural assets”.

The green shoots emerged, creating hope out of the blackness of Marysville after Black Saturday 2009 saw bushfires destroy 90 per cent of the town 99 km north east of Melbourne. But now work has begun on a designated economic stimulus project that will give the town a new $28 million hotel and conference centre.
The Vibe Hotel and Conference Centre Marysville will comprise 100 four-star rooms, including five suites and conferencing for 300. A popular conferencing destination 90 minutes from Melbourne, the new facility is being built on the former site of the iconic Cumberland Guest House and Keppels Hotel.

Vibe is set to reinvigorate the town centre with a restaurant/cafe and a new pub space, a spa/health and wellbeing centre and guest recreational facilities including an outdoor pool and gymnasium. In a public/private partnership, the State Government contributed $19 million to the project and Toga Hospitality Group (brands include Medina Apartment Hotels, Vibe Hotels, Travelodge Hotels and Adina Apartment Hotels) funded the other $19 million. Site works commenced in August and a spokesperson said it expects to open late in 2014.

One hour to 90 minutes from Melbourne are popular Yarra Valley meetings destinations, including wineries that offer both world-class entertainment and a hands-on wine-blending experience to enhance any delegate and group visit.
Balgownie Estate Vineyard Resort and Spa at Yarra Glen has a purpose-built conference centre and accommodates residential conferences with its 69 guest rooms (maximum capacity 142). Maximum conference capacities are 96 (cabaret), 120 (banquet) or 320 (cocktail), with executive retreats in two boardrooms for 16 and 12.

Balgownie is offering meeting packages during Spring that include a day conference package with morning, afternoon tea and lunch, two-course dinner in award-winning Rae’s Restaurant, accommodation in superbly appointed suites and a full breakfast the following morning. Packages start from $329 per person.
Also in the Yarra Valley, Rochford Wines at Coldstream is renowned for its “Day On the Green” music festivals, which attract the corporate incentive market. In November Powderfinger vocalist, Bernard Fanning, tops their bill, with private marquees for 30 available.

Spa-rkling Meetings

Rochford’s Faye Hendricksen said the venue was popular for midweek corporate meetings where hands-on experiences like private wine-blending sessions where delegates roll up their sleeves and blend a wine to match the winemakers.

Reminiscent of an Italian village, Daylesford rose to fame through its Italian settlers who came to take the sparkling waters. Childhood visits evoke strong memories of sulphurous and mineralised waters gushing from numerous pipes that, one reluctantly admits, had to be taken with a splash of Kia-Ora 50/50 cordial.
Times, and tastes, have changed as evidenced by the thousands who flock to the healing waters now, but one thing that looks the same is the art deco property now known as Peppers Mineral Springs Retreat.

The elegant four-star boutique property won Victoria’s best Resort Style Accommodation of 2013, but it is equally well known for its food and its spa.

The Argus dining room features a paddock-to-plate philosophy and won the 2013 regional hotel restaurant of the year, and narrowly missed a chef’s hat in the 2014 Age Good Food Guide; while the glamorous Mineral Spa offers a range of massage therapies, three open air mineral pools, sauna, steam room and 11 treatment rooms.

Conferencing is available in two rooms for up to 100 delegates, while the hotel itself has 40 rooms for up to 70 delegates with extra accommodation available a short walk away.