June 28, 2022 | By Bronwen Largier | Image: Kelly Ferguson (W Melbourne), Christina Grasso and Jason Alcock (The Star Sydney), Steve Dimopoulos (Victoria’s new Tourism, Sport and Major Events Minister) and Jeroen Weimar (CEO of the Victorian 2026 Commonwealth Games Organising Committee)

There has been a flurry of position shifts over the last week or so, with W Melbourne standing up a new role – account director for MICE – The Star Sydney appointing two new general managers, Victoria getting a new tourism minister and the forthcoming Victorian Commonwealth Games landing a CEO for its organising committee.

W Melbourne

With demand rising for a variety of business event types at W Melbourne, the hotel has recruited Kelly Ferguson for the newly created role of account director for MICE. Ferguson comes to the luxury property with 17 years’ experience in the business events sector, including for Melbourne venue business, The Big Group, Grand Hyatt Melbourne, InterContinental Adelaide and Hyatt Regency Adelaide.

“Kelly brings highly credentialled creative expertise in the business events space. She will be leading the charge in attracting new business and creating unforgettable event experiences as the demand for business events continues to climb,” said W Melbourne GM Damon Page.

Accompanying its 294 guest rooms, the hotel has over 635m2 of event space, including the pillarless Great Room for 300 attendees in banquet and six other meeting rooms.

The Star Sydney

At The Star Sydney, the business has made two internal promotions, elevating Christina Grasso to general manager of hotels, events and guest experience and Jason Alcock to general manager of food and beverage.

Grasso came to The Star in 2019 as director of hotels and added oversight of guest experience to her role in September last year, before taking on her current role. Prior to The Star, she clocked up experience at various Accor properties around Sydney.

Alcock has been with The Star for more than a decade, holding various critical food and beverage roles, including executive chef and director of food and beverage operations.

He also had a significant hand in the establishment of The Star Culinary Institute, one of Australia’s largest private culinary apprenticeship programs tasked with developing the next generation of Australia’s best chefs.

Hotels at The Star Sydney include The Darling with 171 rooms, The Star Grand Hotel with 309 rooms and suites and The Star Residences. The Star Event Centre can accommodate 960 in banquet or over 1,500 delegates in theatre.

Victoria’s cabinet reshuffle

In Victoria, the state government has made new appointments after several government ministers announced that they do not intend to stand for re-election in Victoria’s state elections later this year.

Amongst those stepping down are Minister for Trade, Business Precincts, Tourism, Sport and Major Events Martin Pakula and Deputy Premier James Merlino.

The resignations mean Victoria now has a new minister for tourism and major events in Steve Dimopoulos, who has taken on the tourism, sport and major events portfolio as well as the creative industries portfolio. Even before being elected to state parliament in 2014, Dimopoulos has worked almost exclusively in the government sphere.

The state cabinet reshuffle has seen a couple of other appointments relevant to the events industry with the new Deputy Premier Jacinta Allan overseeing the Commonwealth Games delivery as part of her role, while former electrician and current Minister for Veterans Shaun Leane will take on responsibility for Commonwealth Games legacy in a ministerial position created specifically for that.

Victorian 2026 Commonwealth Games Organising Committee

The Victorian Government has also appointed the state’s former COVID-19 response commander Jeroen Weimar as CEO of the Victoria 2026 Commonwealth Games Organising Committee.

Weimar was a regular face in Victoria’s daily press conferences as it battled its Delta wave of the COVID-19 in the second half of last year. Prior to his role in helping Victoria manage the pandemic, Weimar gained extensive experience in public transport, holding roles in both the UK and Australia, including CEO of VicRoads and Public Transport Victoria.

“Jeroen has significant experience in senior public and private sector roles and will bring important skills to ensure the Victoria 2026 Commonwealth Games proudly showcases our state to the world,” said Victoria’s outgoing Minister for Tourism, Sport and Major Events, Martin Pakula.

Weimar has already displayed his enthusiasm for his new role.

“I’m excited to lead a team that will work hand in glove with local communities to deliver Victoria 2026 – celebrating the Commonwealth’s greatest athletes and our state’s rich culture and diversity,” he said.

The 2026 Commonwealth Games will have its opening ceremony in Melbourne and then operate largely from four regional hubs – Geelong, Bendigo, Ballarat and Gipplsand – and is expected to contribute more than $3 billion to Victoria’s economy and create thousands of jobs.

The organising committee led by Weimar will lead the delivery of the Games, managing venues and services, logistics, partnerships and engagement, and media, broadcasting and communications.