BY EDWINA STORIE
The Western Australian mining boom along with the capital’s growing popularity with the Asian market is setting Perth up for success, and raising its position on a world-scale for business event destinations.
The Perth we will see in just three of four years will be a completely different sight to the one we know today. It is seeing a rapid transformation thanks to major projects that will enhance dining, entertainment and conference precincts. An enormous amount of infrastructure will not only completely change the landscape but the workings of its industries and professional fields.
The investment into the area is the biggest the region has ever seen, with a series of urban renewal and development projects underway. The Elizabeth Quay waterfront redevelopment will be the $2.6 billion centrepiece project of Perth’s rejuvenation, designed to return the city’s focus to the Swan River and enhance its liveability.
Delivered by the State Government and supported by the City of Perth, Elizabeth Quay will cover nearly 10 hectares of prime riverfront land between Barrack and William streets in the heart of the city. The project will create a precinct featuring a 2.7 hectare inlet surrounded by a split level promenade, shops, cafés and restaurants. It will attract $2 billion in investment and bring 7000 new residents into the area, along with another 6000 workers.
“Elizabeth Quay is the renaissance of Perth,” the Perth Convention Bureau’s CEO Paul Beeson told micenet AUSTRALIA.
“With the improvement of Crown [casino and hotel], Elizabeth Quay waterfront and the Perth Arena, the new infrastructure is increasing our capacity as well as improving the quality of experience for the delegate when they arrive.”
After five years of construction, Perth Arena was launched in November 2012 with a capacity for 15,500 that anchored it as the city’s major entertainment development. It features world-leading technology, a state-of-the-art operating system, adaptable performance floor, extensive support rooms and a retractable roof.
To further support the new infrastructure, a major transport line, Perth City Link, is already under construction to meet the challenges of a rapidly growing city. The project will sink the Wellington Street Bus Station along with the Fremantle rail line from Perth Station through to Lake Street. Running from east to west through Perth’s CBD, it will reconnect the city centre with Northbridge for the first time in 100 years, further linking the foreshore.
All of this new construction has also added to Perth’s thriving culture which is finding its feet as many international chefs flock to the area to take advantage of its top quality produce and world-class wines. Print Hall, The Heritage Bar & Boardroom, Nobu Perth and Neil Perry’s Rockpool have all opened up in the city, and Jamie Oliver’s restaurant Jamie’s Italian is soon to open, while small boutique bars and cafés now inhabit the gentrified laneways.
Mr Beeson says all hotels have been upgrading with soft and hard refurbishments. The new six-star luxury hotel Crown Towers Perth will further add to the high end market that Perth caters to so well. The $568 million project will have 500 spacious rooms along with restaurants, bars and convention facilities, and make Crown the largest hotel in Perth with a capacity of 1200 rooms.
“Crown’s an exceptional product,” Mr Beeson said.
“We’re very lucky to have that project come on. Crown must lead the way in regards to how much investment it’s putting in, but it’s the quality of what they’re going to be producing in 2015 and 2016 that is most exciting to us because it will be an expansion and upgrade of the convention centre for both delegates and conference organisers.”
To ensure it caters perfectly to the MICE market, Crown has reportedly already been communicating with conference organisers to ensure it designs the most user-friendly convention centre in the country.
While interest from the Australian east coast remains high, converting business is said to be a challenge, with many believing that high hotel occupancies are making it difficult to book medium to large conference groups. However the Perth Convention Bureau says this is no longer an issue of concern for conference organisers.
“Historically [high occupancy] was the case but recently there was a drop in the iron ore price and retrenchments throughout the resources industry of Western Australia which have allowed an easing of capacity constraints,” Mr Beeson said.
“What was driving the high prices was resources but those have backed off ever so slightly.
“We’ve had block and rate requests from our members last year which came back with offerings of substantial blocks and very good rates in comparison to Sydney and Brisbane. So we’re now confident to say it’s historical, and that’s a sentiment of the hotels as well. Perth is open for business and the rates have normalised.”
Yet the priority for the bureau remains on high-yield markets, as it has for the past two years.
“We position Perth as a premium conferencing destination,” Mr Beeson said.
“The Perth Convention Bureau’s focus is on securing high yielding sectors. We know those are medical and we’ve been very successful at securing medical events over the past three years. I think in 2012/2013 we had an average of 10,000 medical delegates.”
Mr Beeson says the bureau has commissioned research to identify other high yielding markets that Perth’s industry strengths best support to then focus marketing towards and bidding for.
With most infrastructure due for completion around 2015 and 2016, it will be just three years until this thriving city has made a complete transformation that will strongly rival the east coast, if not the world.