The mining boom might have faded, but there’s a new boom in the west as billions of dollars in infrastructure are under construction and sure to impact the business events market. Graeme Kemlo recently visited Perth and the Kimberley to review the meetings and incentive options.

Perth and Fremantle are in the midst of a $220 billion boom in infrastructure development, including more than $3 billion just in hotel construction that will see an extra 4000 rooms added to the local accommodation stock over the next five years.

Elizabeth Quay is a 10 hectare $2.6 billion project adjacent to Perth Convention Centre that will include the first Ritz Carlton hotel to be built in Australia in more than a decade. When it opens in 2018 the five-star Ritz will have 204 rooms with meetings facilities plus 420 one, two and three bedroom apartments. The Quay will open the city to the riverfront and be a destination for events with cafes, restaurants, entertainment venues and accommodation to suit the convention market.

Other Perth tourism developments include: a 250-room Amara hotel as part of a $280 million 40-storey development on Adelaide Terrace; the Duxton Hotel on St Georges Terrace is to add nine-storeys; the old Emu Brewery site is to get a $350 million 120-room hotel; the Old Treasury Building (circa 1900) is being developed into a luxurious “six-star” boutique 48-room hotel due to open early next year; plus the $568 million 500-room Crown Towers is due to open at Burswood in 2017.

DoubleTree by Hilton Perth Waterfront will be located on Riverside Drive, adjoining Barrack Square on the Swan River. The 241-room hotel will include a restaurant, bar, executive lounge, business centre, gym, pool and event spaces when it opens in mid-2016.

Then there’s Starwood’s new Westin Perth scheduled to open in January 2017 in Hay Street; to the east of the CBD, Australia’s first Aloft hotel is part of a riverfront development due in 2016 with 224 hi-tech, loft-style rooms; due by July next year is Accor’s 15-level Ibis Styles, a premium economy hotel with 228 rooms and meeting facilities on Adelaide Terrace; and a 118 room hotel in Wellington Street is likely to feature Oaks livery.

Perth Ambassador and Goodearth hotels are three-and-a-half star hotels on Adelaide Terrace. The Ambassador offers premium deluxe rooms, the result of a recent $2 million refurbishment program. It has 170 accommodation rooms and suites plus five event spaces for up to 130 (cocktail) or 80 (banquet) with a smaller boardroom for 20.

Across the terrace the Goodearth has 180 apartment-style rooms with kitchenettes. Two meeting rooms suit up to 150 (cocktail) or 120 (theatre). Both hotels offer value with day delegate packages from $55 and the free WiFi is understandably popular with meeting planners.

Fremantle’s firing too
Two new hotels are to be built in this port city that once was home to the America’s Cup. DoubleTree by Hilton Fremantle overlooking the park near the “Cappuccino Strip” will have 150-rooms, a restaurant, bar, business centre, gym, pool and event spaces. It is due to open in 2017. Fremantle is also the site of a new 154-room development at the Woolstores.

For a different hotel experience, Hougoumont Hotel Fremantle has all mod cons, from free WiFi to smart TV, a delightful heritage façade and staff well versed in the history of the name. In fact if you didn’t go around the back of the property you would never know that your “superior cabin” is actually constructed from imported fully-fitted shipping containers, which explains its affordability. There’s a boardroom for 22 with audio-visual equipment and free WiFi. And at 5pm each afternoon the hotel serves complimentary hors d’oeuvres and wine – no wonder it is proving popular with corporates (and their bean counters). Launched last February, owner Patrick Prendiville already plans to add 65 more rooms, a 300-seat restaurant and a pool by building on to an adjacent vacant block. At present the hotel has arrangements with a nearby restaurant for breakfast.

Fremantle offers a range of event venues with an historic theme from the Esplanade Hotel, to the West Australian Maritime Museum. But the heritage-listed Lionel Samson building in Cliff Street, once home to the oldest continuing family business in Australia, has a rich history as a wine and spirit store that can be enjoyed for events today.

Apart from a cellar which houses an historic wine collection, the building also boasts a tiered theatre – both spaces are available for hire together with kitchen facilities (BYO chef). Upstairs is a museum dedicated to Mr Samson who emigrated in 1829 then served as postmaster-general, a State MP and held the first liquor licence.

Mandoon Estate, which is a working winery and boutique brewery, just opened its event space for 400 (banquet) or 500 (theatre). About 20 km from the city along the Swan Valley, this historic property was first planted with vines in 1840 and still has viable verdelho vines from 1895. Mandoon’s Caroline Brown said the venue is ideal for corporate events with options for team-building around the winery and the Homestead brewery. The onsite restaurant offers five and seven-course degustation menus.

Meeting business demand
Perth city and the greater metropolitan area already has more than 10,500 hotel rooms ranging from budget to luxury resorts and boutique hotels, but it has been estimated the city needs 1900 additional rooms by 2020.

And although regarded as a remote capital city, Perth is actually well connected with 17 international, five domestic and 11 regional airlines flying into Perth airport and on to more than 50 domestic and international destinations. The airport recently opened a new terminal (T2) designed to cater for the fly-in-fly-out workforce, but it is also adding a new runway to help reduce morning and afternoon peaks.

On average each year the Perth Convention Bureau attracts 100 million dollars-worth of conference business and more than 50,000 delegates. And it continues to win the business necessary to fill the new hotel rooms under construction in Perth: LNG18 the world’s biggest global meeting for the gas industry will be held in April 2016 over four days attended by 4000 delegates; Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS) & ASM 2015 is a 2500 delegate event for May 2015; the International Zeolite Conference (IZC) is in June 2019 over six days for 1000 attendees.

With the new room stock in place the business events industry has estimated the city could host events for 8000 to 9000 delegates. It hosted more than 4000 during CHOGM in 2011.

Among the most popular off-site event venues in Perth is Matisse Beach Club, a glamorous and colourful beachfront event venue at the Esplanade Hotel at Scarborough. It’s a bar, a casual dining experience, a restaurant and an events venue with private cabanas and beach lounges in pastel hues that provide their own theming. Event and function sales manager, Els Petitjean, says the venue can be hired exclusively Monday through Thursday for product launches, training days or as a private room for 50 to 300.