BY GRAEME KEMLO
Victoria’s most popular attraction, the Great Ocean Road, needs a $50 million upgrade, thousands more accommodation rooms, up to four large scale resorts, and a dozen new hotels including five-star international brands to cater for twice the number of international visitors predicted by 2030.
And the biggest investment needed for the region is Geelong’s proposed $200 million convention and exhibition centre, according to a destination management plan report from Regional Development Australia. The problem is finding the money.
The joint federal and state government funded report says “the Great Ocean Road region captures seven million visitors, contributes over 7000 jobs and has a direct economic output of $1.1 billion per annum.”
Most of the international “experience seekers” will come from India, China, Europe and USA and they want food and wine, nature-based tourism and wildlife experiences. The report analysed gaps in the business tourism market as: no large international event venue and no large dining venue outside hotels.
Geelong Otway Tourism executive director, Roger Grant, has often talked about the Great Ocean Road being transformed into a driveway through to Kangaroo Island. But unlike the South Australian island known internationally for its luxury Southern Ocean Lodge, Victoria does not have an iconic luxury property overlooking the water.
Mr Grant told the local daily paper, the Geelong Advertiser, that the report and a recent decision to allow sensitive tourism investment in Victoria’s national parks meant the private sector could get engaged in development projects. He cited the Great Ocean Walk, an incentive experience of 104 kilometres from Apollo Bay to the Twelve Apostles, saying it needed a $10 million injection to transform it from “a fantastic local walk to a walk of international status.”
A division of Geelong Otway Tourism, Business Events Geelong, acts as the convention bureau for the area, represents more than 1000 MICE-related businesses, and continues to win awards for its work with the business tourism sector; most recently named Best Regional Destination Marketing Organisation at the 2012 MEA awards.
Recently the city announced it would host The 7th World Vintage Cricket Carnival over six days in January, 2014. Said to be the biggest World Cricket Carnival yet, the event is expected to attract up to 1200 players from Canada, US, England, Wales, Scotland, New Zealand, Barbados, South Africa, Netherlands, India and Australia. That’s 10,000 bed nights.
By then the city’s newest accommodation, Vue will be open with 60 serviced apartments providing studio, one and two-bedroom options. The open plan layouts have a European kitchen, designer bathroom and are expected to be in demand for business accommodation situated within walking distance of Geelong CBD, Eastern Beach, Royal Geelong Yacht Club and the Promenade. Vue is due to open late this year.
In recent moves Geelong has opted to become more PCO friendly with two of the largest conference hotels – Four Points by Sheraton Geelong and Mercure Geelong agreeing to use a standard accommodation contract for PCOs holding business events in the city.
Manager of Business Events Geelong, Terry Hickey, said the avoidance of managing multiple different hotel contracts was “not only a first for Regional Australia, but the nation as a whole, firmly placing Victoria’s second largest city as a leading destination when it comes to business events.”
Delegates are also set to win when conferencing in Geelong with the city fathers turning on and then extending free WiFi through the city centre and the popular waterfont. Commenting on the move, Andrew Hiebl, now executive director of the Australian Association of Convention Bureaux, said “internet connectivity is crucial to the delegate experience and can influence destination selection.”