Victoria was in the spotlight of Asian buyers and media with the staging of a major familiarisation program in September.

BY GRAEME KEMLO

The Melbourne Convention + Visitors Bureau and Tourism Victoria hosted 70 Asian buyers for the 2012 Asia Mega Famil and Workshop.
The event was a four-night familiarisation program for around 20 leisure agents, 30 MICE agents and trade media, representing Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Hong Kong and China.
Victoria’s premier business events and leisure suppliers were given the opportunity to showcase their offerings to key decision-makers first-hand via a cost-effective and comprehensive program which included pre-touring, team-building and a business session.
Chief executive officer of the MCVB, Karen Bolinger, explained that this year’s event replaced the annual travelling roadshow to Asia traditionally undertaken by MCVB.
“In the past we have taken a group of key Victorian business events suppliers to Asia where they have pitched their individual products to prospective buyers. This year’s approach allowed for more suppliers to become involved and gave buyers the opportunity to physically see and experience the products for themselves,” Ms Bolinger said, adding that the profile of Melbourne and Victoria would be further raised by the invited trade media program.
Victoria’s natural assets have been identified as the key to tourism growth and international visitors to Victoria are anticipated to deliver most of the growth, says the Victorian Tourism Industry Council. Chief executive Dianne Smith was commenting on a government decision to improve competitiveness by unlocking nature-based tourism opportunities.
“Victoria has the highest number of national park visitors in Australia yet people spend the least amount of money in our parks and we still struggle to attract overnight visitors to regional areas,” Ms Smith said.
“Revised planning and development restrictions will position our natural and cultural icons as tourism destinations themselves, through sensitive and appropriate tourism development. “Planning reforms in particular have legitimised tourism as an appropriate use of land. Tourism is no longer an afterthought, but part of the framework that is central to appropriate development for community and tourism alike. Not only does it create access to our icons, it creates a sense of pride for our locals and tourists.”
A report tracking three years of business events statistics for Regional Victoria, conducted for Tourism Victoria by BB Yonder Consultants (Carine Bourcier and Tish Black) has shown that the economic contribution for 2010/11 was $280 million, based on the 115 operators surveyed. Based on the larger population of 170 regional business event operators the figure rises to $393 million.
It reflects a total of 11,479 regional business events, requiring 133,802 room nights and 522,041 business event delegates. Over the three years the research showed a seven per cent increase in the number of events, room nights up eight per cent, and delegate numbers up nine per cent.
Chris Porter, executive officer of Business Events Victoria said current trends in the sector showed after an initially strong start in the second half of 2011, the first half of 2012 was noticeably quiet with companies reassessing budgets allocated to conferencing and associated travel. However, he said that since the release of the new Regional Planners’ Guide in July and the release of company budgets in the new financial year “activity has noticeably increased with strong leads coming from tradeshow attendance, sales calls activities and direct requests via the BEV website.”
“Buyers are more consistently considering options further out from the Melbourne CBD, instead of the usual one hour from Melbourne, acknowledging the strong support provided by BEV,” he said.
There has also been great buyer feedback in relation to famils coordinated with regional partners – “more often than not, once they have visited regional Victoria they will confirm regional Victoria,” Mr Porter said, adding that BEV was happy to speak to any event organiser to help coordinate famil opportunities.

Infrastructure boost

Albury Wodonga, which hosts more than 100 major events each year, is set to gain new developments that will benefit the meetings sector.

Both Quest and Accor are putting their shingle on new accommodation developments in the twin cities.
Quest Apartments is to increase its exposure in both Albury and Wodonga. Construction will soon commence on conference facilities and accommodation in the historic wool store building in Albury. It is part of a $7 million redevelopment of Australia’s largest inland woolstore that will see 49 Quest serviced apartments constructed.
Meanwhile construction commenced in July on the $25 million purpose-built Quest apartment and tavern complex to be known as Huon Hill in Wodonga. When complete next year it will add a mix of 80 rooms – studios, one, two and three-bedroom apartments – with meals and conferencing facilities onsite.
Accor recently announced that it will build a $20 million 120-room hotel in Albury, the first built in the city since the 1970s. The four-star property, which includes conference facilities, an onsite restaurant and bar, starts construction later this year and is expected to be completed by late 2013.
The chairman of the Murray Region Tourism Board (MRTB), Mark Francis, has praised the new infrastructure developments saying they would have positive impacts on the community and would create new full-time and casual employment.
In other news, a multi-million dollar redevelopment of the Albury Regional Art Gallery has been announced with $3.5 million funded by the Federal Government.

Albury