The Adelaide Convention Bureau staged its ninth successful annual Destination SA showcase. Graeme Kemlo was there to report on this great event.


Having committed as a city to multi-million dollar infrastructure investments that will directly benefit the business events industry, it is a relatively small investment dollar-wise that Adelaide has made over the past nine years to showcase South Australia.
Destination SA, the annual gathering of both the supply and demand sides of the MICE sector recently brought in buyers from Asia and interstate, took them into different regions – Barossa Valley, Port Lincoln, Kangaroo Island and McLaren Vale – to sample the local supplier hospitality.
Adelaide Convention Bureau chief executive Damien Kitto is candid about Destination SA. He is hoping to steal some of the large national events that hug the east coast. Providing experiences in his state is one way of ensuring SA gets more mindshare over east as a meetings and incentive choice.
We arrive Friday afternoon and check into our overnight accommodation at Hilton Adelaide. Site inspections of Adelaide Market or hotels are offered… having done the market last year, I chose the hotel tour.
As hotel rooms go these are much the same as everywhere, but Adelaide’s people exude a gentle charm, (maybe it’s that softer accent than interstaters possess), and we’re told frequently that this is the 20 minute city. Even Hilton Adelaide’s new GM, Peer Norsell, with less than a month under his belt, proudly pumps the 20 minute ‘company line’.
Driving down Grenfell Street we learn that here in early 2014 Accor will open the largest Ibis economy brand hotel in Australia – a veritable skyscraper reaching 17 stories, delivering 307 rooms and costing $65 million.
Dinner is at Enoteca Cucina, the restaurant of the South Australian Italian Association – it is honest fare and if it’s good enough for an Italian association, you’d never hear me complain about ravioli di zuca (home made with roasted pumpkin and thyme) or angello brasato (braised lamb shanks, vegetables, red wine and chickpea mash), on a cold Adelaide night.
Saturday sees John our bus driver (same friendly guy as last year), pack our luggage in the trailer and a baker’s dozen of us head to the Barossa. The blurb was pretty accurate: “There’s nothing else like it in the world, where a rich European heritage lives on, combined with down to earth Aussie spirit.”
Our first stop is an historic farm property and a brilliant idea – delegates are all given a DSLR camera, digital media card and some instructions on how to capture the charm of this property. People cannot believe they have been entrusted with expensive photo gear and told to go get a shot, but Georgia Felt of Zoom Photography Tours encourages their freedom of expression and later delivers everyone a bottle of wine with their best photo as the label. Everyone just loved this innovative experience. We stay at Novotel Barossa Valley where host, DSM’s Troy Dowd, puts on an excellent dinner featuring locally sourced food and wine. Sunday breakfast is “a Barossa Berocca” courtesy of Chateau Tanunda winemaker and wit, Stuart Bourne. He pours us a sparkling red and we don’t dare glance at the time, classing it as internal fortification against the cold wind.
The Chateau was a revelation with so much offered as an event venue, including a turf cricket oval, a train line with its own carriage, cavernous internal spaces and elegant outdoors…not to mention the Bourne factor!
Sunday night’s welcome reception is held in Adelaide’s Queen’s Theatre, circa 1840. And no, a bomb has not hit the place, it is a shell that needs theming, so they frocked her up with a bit of bling, some lights and even an Adelaide institution – the pie floater van. Cocktails for 300? No worries if someone spills a red.
We overnight at Sebel Playford opposite the convention centre, where Monday will see the Destination SA Business Events Exchange and Exhibition. More industry operators and more guests than ever will undertake the buyer-meet-seller experience here.
Monday morning and everything is running smoothly through the business exchange and into the night as Adelaide Town Hall hosts a glamorous and entertaining evening.
But you sense, like the elegant Swans gliding on the Torrens, there’s a lot of furious paddling going on under the water. Damien Kitto speaks frankly about his bureau: “We’re working harder than ever in an extremely challenging environment… we are actually down 15 per cent on our level of economic benefit… organisations are being more conservative in how they run their event… delegate numbers are smaller”.
The global economy and the strong Aussie dollar are also factors, plus he admits, “corporate has never been a strong suit for us”.
He provides a snapshot of the latest results: bids submitted is up 23 per cent on target; events secured is up 29 per cent on target; international events won is 30 per cent up on target; events won will return $85 million in economic benefit; the bid split is 80 per cent national / 20 per cent international.
Mr Kitto says national and global competition to secure events is at an all-time high and stakeholder investment is increasing. But he looks to 2014 when Adelaide’s massive investment – into the convention centre, the riverbank precinct and allied infrastructure developments nearby, Adelaide Oval, South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute and Rundle Mall – starts to come on stream.
Meanwhile the ongoing strategy is to develop and/or strengthen relationships with key industry partners, launch a four nation alliance with the express purpose of securing lucrative science based events, and maintain a healthy Conventions Adelaide Ambassador program.
Mr Kitto believes Adelaide punches above its weight, measuring resources against results. He says it has “one of the highest returns on investment in Australia with an $85 million result from an input of $2m – a 42:1 ROI”. And he is awaiting decisions on another $45 million of business the bureau pitched pre-June 30.