Celebrating its 150th birthday this year, the Queensland destination of Mackay is on the fast-track to greater business event activity.
BY BRAD FOSTER
A wise man once said that familiarity breeds contempt. If that’s the case then conferencing in the same destination year after year could very well be doing more damage to a company than not holding the event at all.
Familiarity can be a good thing but certainly not all the time. To get into a new mindset, with new thoughts and ideas, getting out of your comfort zone and into the unfamiliar may very well be the impetus your company needs to change and grow.
So where is Mackay and what does it offer the business event sector? The Mackay region is located 11 hours by road from Brisbane or eight hours south of Cairns. About one hour north is Airlie Beach and the heart of the Whitsundays region. The Cumberland Island group lies just off the coast. Most of the islands are national parks including the well-known Brampton Island and lesser-known Keswick Island.
Temperatures range from 22 degrees C in winter up to 30 degrees C in summer making it an ideal year-round destination, particularly during the cooler months felt in southern Australia.
And the good news is that you won’t have to drive to get there. Virgin Australia, QantasLink and Jetstar provide regular services to Mackay, with Virgin offering direct flights from Sydney. The airport even has a Virgin Australia and Qantas lounge ensuring your delegates can relax in style before their departures.
Southwest of Mackay is the Isaac Region. Located within the Bowen Basin, Australia’s largest coal seam, the hinterland is rich in natural resources. It offers visitors the opportunity to go gold fossicking or take a coal mine tour.
Aside from its mining and beef production, the Mackay region is a leading producer of fresh seafood. Local fishermen catch and supply about half of all of Queensland’s fishing exports.
The other cornerstone of its local economy is tourism. And with 31 beaches within easy reach of the city it’s not hard to understand why.
Already some savvy conference groups have experienced Mackay’s high level of service, great accommodation options, and friendly and professional staff.
Most recently the Reed Exhibitions Queensland Mining & Engineering Exhibition & Conference was held in Mackay with around 4000 exhibiting staff and 12,000 trade visitors attending. A big event for Mackay, the town was buzzing throughout the week with restaurants and venues booked out for corporate functions and meetings connected to the show. Big favourites were restaurants in the city including Church on Palmer, Chicci, Burp Eat Drink and Latitude 21.
In June the North Queensland Sports Foundation hosted the North Queensland Games in Mackay. The largest regional multi-event sporting games in Australia, this was the 15th games since the inaugural event was held in Townsville in 1984.
More than 30 sports were involved with an estimated 5000 + competitors.
The Mackay Convention Bureau provided accommodation management support for the event. Being held during the first weekend of the Queensland school holidays allowed competitors and their families to extend their stay to take in the highlights of the region.
In April the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG) held its 2012 Provincial Fellows Annual Scientific Meeting in Mackay. More than 140 delegates from across Australia and New Zealand attended.
The partners’ program included tours with Reeforest Adventure Tours (www.reeforest.com) and a trip to the nearby Eungella National Park (the longest stretch of subtropical rainforest in Australia and one of the best places in Australia to view platypus in the wild).
New, hot and happening
Mackay already has a great many accommodation options and meetings facilities, and yet there are plenty more irons in the fire for new facilities. Currently there is a proposal for a new city centre Quest Apartments, a hotel adjacent to the Mackay Entertainment Centre, new properties at Town Beach, East Point, and by the riverside.
There is also talk about a hotel at Mackay Airport and construction of a second tower at the Clarion Hotel at Mackay Arena.
Business development manager at the Mackay Convention Bureau, Carrie Olsen, says work is expected to begin on at least two of these projects during the winter months (not that they really have a winter in Mackay).
In terms of non-accommodation activity, the Mackay Botanic Gardens amphitheatre is presently under construction, and the Clarion Hotel Mackay Marina renovation to expand its function facilities is about to begin.
Current facilities and venues are certainly holding their own. The Mackay Entertainment & Convention Centre recently welcomed visitor number 500,000 through its doors. Not bad for a regional venue.
The Mackay Entertainment & Convention Centre in the heart of the city is a $29 million facility that can host up to 1500 delegates. With plenty of break-out space and indoor-outdoor areas it is well suited to not only major meetings but small conferences, cocktail parties and gala dinners.
Nearby accommodation includes the 79-room Clarion Hotel Mackay Marina, the 81-room Coral Cay Resort Motor Inn, and the 96-room Quest Mackay, which are all rated four-and-a-half stars.
One of the great things about running meetings in regional centres is the ability to get involved in local events. You can find a list of upcoming events in the Mackay region by visiting
The Mackay Region Festival of Arts is another hot ticket.
Details can be found by visiting www.festivalmackay.org.au
For those considering holding a meeting in Mackay make sure you get in touch with the Mackay Convention Bureau to help you source accommodation, venues, dining options and things to see and do “beyond the ballroom”.
A division of Mackay Tourism Limited, the bureau can assist in the preparation and presentation of bid proposals, including official letters of welcome, hosting of site inspections for the organiser, introductions to products and services in the local area, sourcing, selection and advice on accommodation and venues, assistance in planning of social programs and itineraries, assistance with organising transfers, and plenty more.