By Graeme Kemlo

And so it was that Business Events Geelong came to town, took over a couple of Melbourne’s popular laneway restaurants to woo city event planners to hold their meeting an hour out of town in Geelong and the Bellarine.

While it was an intimate progressive lunch for 40 in the popular Flinders Lane culinary precinct, Business Event Geelong’s convention bureau manager Mark Da, believes the exercise will generate business for Victoria’s second-largest city.

Feedback from six Business Events Geelong members who attended the lunch with mainly corporate planners suggests there is significant interest in getting out of Melbourne, not just for the day, but for two or more days of business planning followed by local recreational opportunities including renowned regional food and wine.

Suppliers attending included Novotel Geelong, Rydges Geelong, Waurn Ponds Estate, The Pier Geelong, Mt Duneed Estate and the Geelong Football Club.

The progressive lunch started with canapés and espresso martinis at Garden State Hotel before we all followed the French accordion music, presumably to a nearby French bistro. Down an alley that once would have been buzzing with Melbourne’s rag trade, we arrived at The French Brasserie. All the wait staff spoke native French, lending that air of authenticity, the catch-cry of a younger generation, so “C’est parti pour un bon depart”… we were indeed off to a great start.

The “taste of Geelong” snuck under the very noses of the Melbourne establishment included the award-winning Scotchmans Hill wines, which were paired with a range of local fare, while serious networking was undertaken at two long tables.

“The idea for us was really to bring our region to Melbourne and make it easy for Melbourne event organisers to experience some of the product we have on offer,” Mark Day commented.

On our table one planner commented that the great thing about events like Geelong’s was that you could network with other buyers and get ideas for not only venues but different types of events.

Mark acknowledged that attendee benefit, saying “The concept is really all about networking… these conference and meeting planners are predominantly executive assistants and personal assistants so it is a great opportunity for them to expand their network of EAs and PAs in Melbourne and also expand their network of operators from potential venues.”

Because Geelong and the Bellarine was continually evolving, with new product coming online all the time, it was important as a regional destination to keep in front of city decision-makers.

One of the major developments for the region was Air Asia’s inaugural flights from December 5 using  nearby Avalon airport, which Mark Day said “Opens us up twice a day to 130 destinations via Kuala Lumpur… it is an opportunity to get some new markets down here and really start pushing the region hard.”