Regional Victoria delivers

BY GRAEME KEMLO

With regional tourism worth $16 billion to the Victorian economy, boosting the business events segment makes sound economic sense. And it appears as if new government funding is already paying off, writes Graeme Kemlo.

The past year has seen an almost 300 per cent growth in leads delivered to venues and operators for meetings and events in Victoria’s regional cities and towns.
Under the ‘Regional Victoria Business Events Program’, the government has provided funds for a business development manager since 2011 who last year provided 145 leads for events to be held about 90 minutes outside Melbourne.
Business Events Victoria chairman, Brendan Maher, said the leads equated to more than 23,000 delegate days and over 10,000 delegate nights… a potential net worth to the Victorian economy of $7,914,816. This figure is based on Tourism Research Australia’s ‘State of the Industry 2012’ report which quotes an average nightly spend of $336 per person.

mildura revs up

At the other end of the Murray River, Mildura continues to attract a unique blend of events that may not be “suit and tie”, but contribute significantly to the city’s business revenues. Last year it hosted four conferences generating more than 5000 visitors, all in the space of three months.
Its major success was hosting the annual Ulysses motorcycle club convention for 4500 last March, which generated $4.5 million locally and earned the city ‘Best Regional Event’ at the Australian Event Awards. The award came almost five years after Mildura first bid for the event.
With Mildura’s latest win, there are suggestions the city might promote itself as a ‘Motor Sport Mecca’: it has won the right to host the 39th Australian Van Nationals at Easter 2014. This is an Australia-wide muster of panel vans, Sandmans and other assorted “shaggin’ wagons” that scared a generation of fathers with teenage daughters in the 1970s. The event started in Mildura in 1976 and will see the return of a plethora of prized panel vans, some valued at more than $100,000.
Julie Jewell, business event facilitator with Mildura Rural City Council, says Easter in Mildura already boasts a mega motor sports calendar with Timmis Speedway, Sunset Strip 1/8 mile drag racing, Ski 100 waterski racing on the Murray, and motorbikes at the Mildura Speedway track. According to Mildura Mayor, Cr Glen Milne, a motor sports strategy makes sense as business events are a natural attraction due to the region’s passion for motor sports.

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