November 29, 2022 | By Graeme Kemlo | Number and type of events held in 2022 updated on December 19, 2022
What pandemic? Adelaide Convention Centre has just recorded its biggest November ever and is on track to deliver a fiscal year for 2022-2023 that is stronger than the last non-pandemic year in 2018-2019.
After six months as general manager of the venue, Martin Radcliffe believes he was lucky to inherit leadership of Adelaide Convention Centre, citing its strong systems, standards, high quality product and very capable team.
“I wasn’t walking into something that had to be fixed…I was walking into a strong product that was now looking to bounce back aggressively from the impacts of COVID,” he says.
Radcliffe previously spent eight years at Adelaide Convention Bureau – now Business Events Adelaide – before leaving to run a five-star city hotel and then going into industry consulting. He sees the benefits of his different roles as providing “the ability to read the impact that this industry can have on the accommodation and wider tourism sector”.
“So I think the hotel experience has been highly relevant. A marriage of what I knew from the convention bidding climate right through to operations and delivery at the hotels,” he says.
“We weren’t shut down as long as some of our competitors interstate, but we did lose staff from the overseas student market.
“We are working with Study Adelaide to tap into the International student market to capture the interest of students before they leave their home countries. As a result, the centre has already attracted some of those international students back on board.”
Adelaide has always appealed to the associations market more than the corporate market, but this is changing Radcliffe believes.
“Associations are now thinking about growing their events even further, running events more frequently, trying to increase their reach by adding virtual components. And we’re seeing more interest from the corporate market, which is excellent. Adelaide as a city is evolving, our industries are on the up again – key industries like innovation, technology.
“Lot Fourteen, our technology hub, is now hosting companies like Amazon. We’re seeing growth in the private sector as well, which is translating through to more of the larger corporations who might have historically only looked at the eastern seaboard, they are now seriously considering Adelaide,” Radcliffe says.
He says there was corporate interest in 500 to 1,000 pax events in Adelaide.
“The national associations stage large, very intricate events and a lot of them are still attracting large international audiences so we are very careful to pursue both international and national association business.”
Last week Radcliffe helped drive an Adelaide roadshow across Australia.
“We hosted events in Brisbane, Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne for national association decision makers and planners and there is really quite a strong appetite to come to Adelaide,” he says.
“I think the days are gone where associations are following very set rotations; they are going for what works for their membership and what works for their event.”
And he says the international market is back.
“We have hosted eight international conventions since March 2022, including significant events such as the recent World Indigenous Peoples Conference on Education for 2,400 delegates, as well as international oil and gas and agriculture conferences.”
Radcliffe says the centre would probably host over 620 events this year including 86 conferences and exhibitions.
He notes that changes since the beginning of the pandemic include clients being more conscious about creatively and responsibly incorporating technology, sustainability, wellness and connection to country into their conference and event programs.