By Graeme Kemlo

As CEO of Adelaide Convention Bureau (ACB), Damien Kitto this week hosts his largest attendance ever at Destination SA (DSA) where buyers meet sellers in a business exchange that usually generates millions of dollars of events business for the state.

But this year is different since it will be the first such business exchange in Australia and a bit of a litmus test for the sector, which has been significantly impacted by COVID.  And with the cancellation of the industry’s annual AIME expo in Melbourne next month, Damien is excited to get first bite of the cherry.

“Clearly there is pent up demand to meet in Adelaide, especially as it is one of Australia’s safest cities,” he said.

“There has been strong interest and for a long time we’ve been very determined to host our event and we have more clients than ever joining us – the majority face-to-face – and some online.”

The four-day event starts Wednesday and includes buyers from all states, although current COVID restrictions mean some require testing at Adelaide airport and hotel isolation until their results come back.

About 33 exhibitors from all sectors of the business events industry were keen to meet buyers at a formal business exchange at the convention centre and also to socialise at a range of events that showcase the city and its capability.

For many who have not travelled in the past year it will be a chance to check out Adelaide’s new events infrastructure including 600 new hotel rooms added last year, another 400 this year and 800 scheduled for 2022. Among them are major brands: EOS by Sky City Casino, Crowne Plaza, Sofitel, Indigo (IHG) plus a unique new hotel at Adelaide Oval. Coming in 2022 are Westin and Hyatt Regency, he said, “and maybe a couple of others.”

DSA attendees will be wined and dined at one of the city’s most luxurious new venues inside EOS – a $300 million new hotel attached to Adelaide’s former grand old city railway station. Other city venues, including the new riverfront and convention centre, will be on show before the froup splits in three for wider touring within regions relatively close to Adelaide, which Damien is fond of calling :the 20-minute city” since everything is relatively close by.

He said that while the industry worth “more than $2 billion to Adelaide” had been affected by COVID, and JobKeeper was a significant factor in preserving job and businesses, he believed business events would soon return because “People want face-to-face engagement.”