Central Australia operators are predicting a boom in business event activity thanks to some excellent new infrastructure.
BY BRAD FOSTER
There are two distinct destinations for meetings and incentive travel rewards in Central Australia – Alice Springs and Uluru (Ayers Rock). And, while both offer very different experiences for groups, the good news is that their high levels of accommodation and meetings space after recent upgrades ensure that high expectations of the savvy planner are met in each.
In Alice Springs, for example, Lasseters Hotel Casino has just completed and opened its new $10 million accommodation wing. The new wing houses a total of 66 rooms including three split-level two-bedroom suites. Rooms and suites either have views of the MacDonnell Ranges and the 18-hole Alice Springs Golf Course, Australia’s only championship desert golf course, or alternatively, overlook the new resort pool.
New rooms feature free WiFi, 42 inch LCD televisions and iPod docks and showcase original artwork from more than 20 local Central Australia indigenous artists.
The new wing brings the total number of rooms at Lasseters to 205. Other developments still to come include a 180-seat dining space, a new hotel entrance and reception area completely separate from a new casino lobby, a VIP gaming room and commercial gymnasium.
The Lasseters investment is clearly justified with news that in 2013, three major conferences with a combined estimated spend of $3.3 million, will be held in Alice Springs within the space of five months, highlighting the positive growth being experienced by the region. The flurry of activity commences next June with an estimated 700 delegates in town for the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Native Title Conference. A major financial institution will be holding its annual conference in July and the Australian Indigenous Tourism Conference follows in October. In 2012, the Pacific Region Indigenous Doctors Congress (PRIDoC) is expected to attract more than 350 delegates in October. It was preceded by the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples in September. All of these will be or were held at the Alice Springs Convention Centre connected to Lasseters.
Not to be outdone, there has been plenty of activity at Ayers Rock Resort with the completion of rooms at Sails in the Desert. All Sails in the Desert guest rooms have new furniture, curtains, linen, carpet, artwork and 42 inch LCD TVs. Balconies have been refreshed with new outdoor furniture, and bathrooms have received a chemical clean providing a fresh new look.
Even bigger news is the imminent opening of the resort’s stand-alone conference centre – Uluru Meeting Place. The venue has been designed by leading hospitality interior design specialists, Chada, who have created striking contemporary interiors that reflect the indigenous heritage of the location. The facilities include a new ballroom that can comfortably seat 420 people but which can also be sub-divided via acoustically rated walls into separate smaller meeting spaces.
There is also a second ballroom that seats more than 300 which can also be split to create an integrated conference arena.
Aside from room refurbishments and construction of the convention centre the $29.5 million program includes public area renovations and refurbishment at Sails in the Desert including the hotel entry foyer, Mulgara Art Gallery, Winkiku Restaurant, Kuniya Restaurant and Tali Bar.
In keeping with the upgrade works, Ayers Rock Resort is also putting more emphasis on guest activity and group options. Free activities for guests, conference delegates and partners, now include garden guided walks led by an indigenous guide, self-guided hotel garden walks, indigenous art classes, bush yarns, an indigenous art market, spear and boomerang throwing, and watching – and participating in – the daily performance by the Wakagetti Cultural Dancers. Ayers Rock Resort has also launched a boutique open-air dining experience called Tali Wiru. It combines indigenous culture and the finest gastronomic fare and offers magnificent views of Uluru and the distant domes of Kata Tjuta. This boutique experience joins the award-winning and world famous Sounds of Silence dinner under the stars, which caters for larger groups.