Short term pain for long term gain is the catchcry of the imminent closure of Sydney’s convention centre.


There’s no better way to gauge how a destination is doing than by asking its clients, and Sydney is certainly doing okay despite the closure at the end of this year of the Sydney Convention & Exhibition Centre for a three-year redevelopment.
General manager of business development at BE Sydney, Kristian Nicholls, in his regular contact with BE Sydney clients told micenet AUSTRALIA magazine that the bureau is working hard to accommodate their needs within the city between 2014 and 2016 with a lot of positive results.
“In the long run our city will be rewarded with a world-class, integrated convention, exhibition and entertainment precinct that will be a key driver of our city’s ongoing success, both as a business event destination and a global city,” he said en-route to IMEX in Frankfurt recently.
“There are challenges, but I’ve been surprised by the opportunities it also presents. The development period of ICC Sydney provides the perfect opportunity for Sydney’s venues and suppliers to showcase their flexibility and fantastic ability to collaborate.
“A key indicator of client assurance in Sydney’s ability to deliver is that despite the news that the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre (SCEC) will close, BESydney has secured events worth an estimated $43.8 million in economic impact for the state of NSW. Of these events, 54 per cent are taking place between 2014 and 2016. We are open for business.
“New spaces coming online have also helped – there is a real feeling that Sydney is transforming itself. Some of these new venues, such as The Star’s Event Centre, are already open. Others are eagerly anticipated, like Royal Randwick’s $150 million renewal and Barangaroo’s once-in-a-hundred-year development. Four Points by Sheraton, already Australia’s largest hotel, also has plans to add new hotel stock and four new meeting spaces with a combined total of 2000 square metres of meeting spaces over the next few years.
“Also, the city’s hotels are combining forces and providing innovative solutions to cater for international conference requirements during the construction period. An example of this is the IEEE International Conference on Communications, to be held in Sydney in June 2014. The event will see two CBD hotels, Sheraton on the Park and Hilton Sydney, collaborate to host the 1200 person international conference, with plenaries taking place in one hotel and committee meetings in the other.”
Strength in future years is clearly echoing the current strong period of activity, with Mr Nicholls reporting BE Sydney clients are saying that Sydney is a destination that delivers – “an attribute that is of paramount importance to associations and organisations that are investing significant time and money, and their reputation, to deliver outcomes from their conferences and events”.
“Conference and event organisers tell us that Sydney is reliable, consistently delivering world-class experiences. This has been attributed to its universities and research institutions, engaged and experienced industry professionals, great infrastructure and the collaborative relationship between the bureau and the NSW Government and City of Sydney. Sydney has a strong track record for meeting, and often exceeding, event objectives including attendance, delegate experience and legacies.

ABOVE: An artist’s impression of the masterplan for the new convention and exhibition centre precinct in Darling Harbour including Barangaroo (at left)


“In today’s rapidly changing global market the true value of business events is becoming more widely appreciated and understood. The market is becoming increasingly competitive. With this in mind, clients place a lot of value in a city and industry that can deliver results.
“Sydney’s recent ICCA rankings are proof of its reputation as the first place to meet and collaborate in Australia. Our city was ranked Australia’s number one destination for international association conferences, and is ranked 24th worldwide – a 10 place rise from last year. Sydney was also ranked sixth in the Asia-Pacific region: a region that is increasingly competitive.”
Mr Nicholls said while the Sydney Convention & Exhibition Centre has traditionally accommodated the majority of large conventions in the city, Sydney has always been home to a variety of large venues, which are popular event locations among clients.
“Amway China, for example, brought more than 8000 of its top sales representatives to Sydney during January 2011 as part of its annual incentive and training program. The event was a great success and had an economic impact of more than $33 million for the state. Its business sessions were held at Acer Arena and the event concluded with a spectacular ‘Aussie’ themed gala dinner at The Dome – Sydney Showground. Similarly, the 105th Rotary International Convention will also use a number of venues at Sydney Olympic Park to host up to 18,000 delegates.
“In addition to Sydney Olympic Park, other inner city venues offer impressive options for large events. For example, The Star’s Event centre can hold 3000 delegates theatre-style; Luna Park has the flexibility of multiple venues, including the impressive capacity of The Big Top; Australian Technology Park, can host 3500 theatre-style in its industrial surrounds and both the Dockside Group and Doltone House venue collections offer a breadth of options for conferencing or social programs.
He said while competition varies across the association and corporate incentive markets, it is certainly intense across the whole industry.
“In the association market, global association meetings that have traditionally rotated between Europe, North America and the Asia Pacific are now becoming open to taking the meeting out of rotation if a destination can present a compelling enough business case.
“It is imperative that BESydney remains in close regular contact with decision makers and association leaders and utilise our networks, via either our ambassador program or our international offices, to ensure Sydney and its strengths are always front-of-mind for decision makers.
“For corporate incentives, primarily those out of Asia, we compete largely with other Asian countries. And, we are also increasingly competing against well-known European destinations such as Paris and London.
“Despite this increased competition, experienced planners know that Sydney offers experiences and quality products that deliver a true ROI. Incentives create a performance culture within companies, motivating staff that didn’t make the trip to achieve results to gain them a place on the next one. This is the true ROI for corporate incentive programs. Sydney is a destination that inspires, rewards and motivates – staff strive to have the chance to sink their toes into the sand at Bondi, are awe-inspired by BridgeClimb Sydney when they arrive and depart with memories that will last a lifetime – and also motivate them to keep achieving at work! Our level of repeat clientele from this market is a testament to the strong brand of Sydney, but also our ability to source unique experiences and create fresh event programs.
“BESydney opened our Asian office in Hong Kong in 2004 and has since developed strong and trusted partnerships with corporate clients, travel agents and event companies in the region. We aim to continue to grow our presence in Asia and to build on our already strong reputation amongst clients to ensure that Sydney remains the first place in Australia to meet, do business and celebrate now and in the future.”