Sydney has just completed one of its most successful financial years in business events – up 21 percent on last year – and another strong one anticipated.
BY GRAEME KEMLO
Figures given to micenet AUSTRALIA by Business Events Sydney showed that to June 30 it had secured 103 business events that are estimated to deliver an economic impact of $225.6 million to New South Wales – the third highest economic impact achieved in the organisation’s history.
“Our success this financial year can be contributed to our expert team, our long-term client relationships across the association and incentive sectors, and the continuing and multi-faceted appeal of our harbour city,” said Lyn Lewis-Smith, CEO of Business Events Sydney.
Looking to ensure that Sydney is maximising opportunities to bring business events to our shores, she said that among events secured this year, “you can clearly identify our focus on events that are high-profile, high-yield or linked to our state government’s priority industry sectors.”
Growth in Asia
Growth opportunities for the business events sector continue to grow in Asia. It is no secret that BESydney‘s success in this market is a result of proactively pursuing the opportunities with savvy organisations in South and North Asia. Understanding the market and having an in-market presence are appearing to be invaluable.
Last year was also a record year for Sydney’s push into Asia, securing 33 events with an estimated economic impact of $91 million. This translates into 18,641 corporate incentive and meeting clients travelling from Asia to spend around 92,282 delegate days in Sydney and surrounds.
And Lyn Lewis-Smith is bullish about the new financial year saying, “We expect to continue to grow this Asian business this financial year. Just 11 days into the new financial year, the team has already secured two events with an economic impact of $3.3 million. Pair this with the returns on our current work in China’s second tier cities and extraordinarily large association market, and our success is destined to grow.”
This increase in business from Asia is changing the business event landscape in Sydney, with the traditionally long lead times of association business reduced to a matter of months for many corporate incentive programs. Fifty per cent of the events secured last financial year, and representing 44 per cent of the economic impact, will be delivered before the end of 2012, with 56 per cent of these from Asia.
“This shift in event delivery times is changing how we operate in terms of both bidding and supporting clients throughout the event lifecycle. It’s also changing the way our leading event suppliers need to respond to client needs. It’s an interesting and exciting period of change and opportunity,” says Ms Lewis-Smith.
Strong, Positive, Promising
The Sydney business events market could best be described as strong, positive and promising, Ms Lewis-Smith says. Strong, as shown by the recent results for FY11/12; positive, as suppliers and government are identifying and taking advantages of the strong pipeline of future business secured or under bid by the bureau; and promising in the opportunities arising from established markets Europe and the Americas.
The local market is also collaborating and innovating more than ever before to take advantage of the opportunities presented during the development period of the Sydney International Convention, Exhibition and Entertainment Precinct.
To Lyn Lewis-Smith there are still great opportunities arising from the more established markets of Europe and the Americas, despite economic instability, “and we predict these will increase”.
“Our interaction with the national association and meeting planner market continues to prove particularly fruitful, with our event delivery team assisting 123 corporate meeting planners with their events that delivered business opportunities to our strategic partners and members worth over $6 million. And finally, like all of the industry globally, Sydney – its bureau, its suppliers and its government – are strategising to capitalise on the potential of the Asian century.”
New Star on horizon
Among those looking to capitalise on forecast growth for Sydney is The Star, which is currently constructing its $100 million Events and Entertainment Centre and is already taking bookings for events – meetings seminars, trade shows, exhibitions, gala dinners – for its scheduled April 2013 opening.
The venue already has the 2000-seat Lyric Theatre, but the new development will allow it to offer three meeting rooms of 490, 690 and 130 capacity or a total event space for 1310. Employing all of its 2200 square metre clear space will enable The Star to host 3000 seated and 4000 standing.
Stunning views across Sydney Harbour will be a feature of the new venue, which is being built on the roof of The Star. And food is also set to be a highlight of events with the property already home to an A-list of chefs including Stefano Manfredi, Teage Ezard and Chase Kojima, who will be available to consult on event menus. The new meetings facility houses the latest in commercial kitchens on site set to deliver restaurant quality food overseen by executive chef Andy North.
Beyond its meetings offering the venue has 20 new restaurants, hotels, bars and cafes, retail collection, nightclub with panoramic views, and a spa with 16 treatment rooms.
Residential conferences can be accommodated onsite at the five- star boutique Darling hotel (171 rooms) and the Astral Tower and Residences which add another 481 rooms, providing a total of 652 rooms onsite. For larger events there are a further 2000 hotel rooms in close proximity.
Hi-tech meets heritage
Once Sydney’s largest industrial complex, the former Eveleigh railway yard only minutes from the CBD and the airport, is now a blend of hi-tech and heritage ambience at Australian Technology Park.
It offers event planners multiple options – an exhibition hall for 5000, an auditorium (cinema) that seats 520, dining areas for 450, a theatrette for 137, with secure parking for 650 cars.
Wireless LAN networks, video conferencing, in-house A/V and catering means ATP can offer an end-to-end meetings and event service.
Now ATP has opened another space that supports its heritage/sustainability credentials – the Blacksmith’s Workshop. Ideal for 100-200 it is a cocktails or themed event space set among heritage machinery from the former railway workshop, which still has a working blacksmith’s shop operating at the other end.
Seen nationally as the venue for hit television series Masterchef Australia, the complex totals more than 14,000 square metres of event space. Its largest space is the 6850 square metre exhibition hall with towering cast-iron columns, arched windows and rustic brickwork, all of which is able to be themed with draping.
The Dining Room has been sensitively designed and contrasts existing timber features with state-of-the-art dynamic lighting technology, which can create a sense of scale with endless creative presentations and lighting options. The Dining Room is adjacent to a convention atrium area and visitors often combine the two spaces.
The theatre, purpose built for up to 520, adjoins the convention atrium and the Dining Room and adds to the wide range of choices. The Bay 6 Theatrette is an acoustically designed room with tiered seating for groups of up to 137. It’s perfect for presentations or as a break-out room for a larger event. Other meeting rooms offer customisable spaces for up to 187 people and are perfect for intimate meetings, presentations or event break-outs.
Give the team a ‘gee-up’
The closure of major meetings venues at Darling Harbour late next year for a billion dollar upgrade will not leave a hole in the market with venues such as The Australian Turf Club’s majestic new Royal Randwick scheduled to re-open in August 2013 with twice the meetings capacity and a new five-level grandstand and onsite hotel, Adina Hotel Royal Randwick, due in early 2014.
The five-level grandstand, offering enhanced technology and multi-purpose use is expected to come into its own for trade shows, dinners, conferences and launches. Featuring a ground level indoor exhibition space of 1800 square metres, large scale trade shows will be well catered for. This space connects to the front lawn and the rear boulevard and, with the addition of two super screens, will enhance any event experience.
A 1000-seat ballroom set in 1400 square metres of floor space offers an elevated vantage point across the course. Attached are undercover terraces on two sides and easy guest or delegate access is available via multiple points of entry, escalators and elevators. Adding further flexibility to the ballroom space are four operable walls that can create five separate meeting spaces.
While it is obviously weather-dependent, the racecourse’s unique 4500 capacity ‘Theatre of the Horse’ amphitheatre will suit a range of events from open-air concerts to fashion shows and product launches. Ease of access and parking are also key selling points.
Having just completed a two year renovation of accommodation rooms and the level one event centre the Novotel Sydney Manly Pacific is relaunching its meetings offering and introducing the Novotel Meetings Organic Conference Menu.
The 213-room hotel features nine flexible conference rooms for 10 to 550, undercover parking and an unsurpassed beachfront location. The conference floor has wireless broadband access and dedicated onsite A/V suppliers.
Novotel Manly’s director of sales & marketing, Lindy Andrews, said the hotel had restated its commitment to the MICE industry by recruiting specialist conference crew in sales, co-ordination and operations. Former PCOs and business tourism specialists, they have 100 years of experience in the sector between them, she said.
“Our team is highly experienced and come with a depth of business events knowledge,” she said.
“With Manly an inspirational and aspirational destination, our clients come from all over the state of NSW to Perth and London. Our location facing one of Australia’s iconic beaches, with meeting spaces where delegates can enjoy vast natural light and ocean views has proven popular with conferences and meetings clients and for a range of events, from 20 to 600 attendees in our nine purpose-built meeting venues and four additional bars and restaurants.
“Executive chef, Ryan Dawson (ex -Cottage Point Inn Restaurant) has already implemented a fresh and healthy conference menu ensuring a great range of organic options from breakfast to a fine dining event for 400.”
Most conferences take advantage of the location to undertake an array of team-building activities, from beach volleyball with Olympian Kerrie Pottharst to building bicycles for under-privileged children on Manly Oval to the authentic Aussie Games (thong throwing, sheep shearing, boomerang throwing, whip cracking, gumboot tossing, sheepdog-style trials, tug-o-war and many more fun activities).
“We enjoy an enviable 50 per cent repeat client business to our destination and hotel, being absolutely confident that the Novotel Sydney Manly Pacific will ensure the delivery of their event is their absolute priority,” Ms Andrews said.
Concourse on course for success
Since it opened last September, The Concourse at Chatswood has hosted more than 400 events for local clients including Abigroup, Leighton Contractors, Lexis Nexis, Holcim and Liquor Merchants Association of Australia. Multinationals including Panasonic, Sony and Vodafone also found it suited their product launches and staff information sessions.
Public recognition of the venue was aided by its involvement with television’s The Biggest Loser and X Factor programs. Later this year it will host The NSW Farmers Association, Accessible Arts, and Association of Payroll Specialists annual conferences. Proclaim 2012 was scheduled to take over the entire venue in August for its annual conference.
Facilities include a 1000-seat concert hall, a 500-seat fully-raked theatre, and six smaller venues for 15 to 150.
Romy Hodgson, business events manager at The Concourse says a unique feature of the theatre stage is the ability to hold banquets for up to 120 as concourse architects, fjmt, did for their special Christmas lunch. The stage was also the scene for recent motor vehicle launches.
Summing up, Romy says the venue’s popularity is because it offers, “something for everyone just 15 minutes from the CBD, and a two minute walk from Chatswood Station with easy parking and great accessibility”.
Big screen events
Increasingly the state-of-the-art digital technology offered by Event Cinemas is building its reputation Australia-wide as a unique conferencing and events destination.
It is not such a big mental jump to translate the Gold Class movie-going experience – 26-60 luxurious electronic recliners, a wall-to-wall mega screen, digital sound, waiter service, private bar and lounge area and delicious chef prepared food and beverages – to an event designed to deliver a corporate message to the sales team, or senior executives in one location or across many using satellite technology.
For larger events, Vmax, ideal for blockbuster movie screenings can also make business presentations shine on Australia’s biggest screens. Typical Vmax auditoriums have up to 500 comfortable large seats, more leg room and small tables for resting food, drinks or your notepad. Traditional cinemas can also seat 100 to over 800 guests.
Event Cinemas’ flagship Sydney locations include George Street and Bondi Junction, plus a range of regional screens. The organisation has a national team of events professionals to assist meeting planners and can assist with satellite meeting capabilities and accommodation deals through partner hotels.
Race ahead at Eastern Creek
Part of the recently re-branded SilverNeedle hotel group, The Chifley Hotel Eastern Creek is an ideal western Sydney conferencing option to meet the growing number of businesses located in the outer western Sydney fringe.
The property is set on 1.1 hectares at Eastern Creek Raceway, with its obvious options to combine or theme any meeting or event with the range of locally available sports offerings.
The Chifley’s focus on “experience conferencing” sets them apart: experiences that get the adrenaline pumping, like the V8 experience, or Go Kart experience, high performance “Radical” motoring experience – similar to Formula 1 cars! A range of sports-oriented team-building options is available at nearby venues which include: Eastern Creek Raceway (now called Sydney Motorsport Park), Western Sydney Dragway, Sydney Olympic Park, Blacktown Sports Centre and Penrith Regatta Centre. Other team-building possibilities could make use of Featherdale Wildlife Park, Aquatic Centre wild water rafting, or Penrith White Water Stadium.
SilverNeedle’s most popular MICE properties beyond Sydney include Chifley Wollongong, a new, ultra-modern hotel a 90 minute drive from Sydney on the scenic NSW South Coast; Australis Retreat at Wisemans, a Hawkesbury riverfront retreat one hour from Sydney where executive chef Katherine Beff offers a molecular gastronomy program for MICE delegates; and Australis Diamond Beach Resort, an architecturally inspired resort and spa with absolute beachfront near Forster on the NSW Mid-North Coast (three hours from Sydney).
The Singapore-based SilverNeedle, which currently operates the Country Comfort, Chifley, Chifley Grand, Australis and Sundowner brands, has announced plans to increase its reach from 4000 to 5000 rooms in the Australian market and also expand the brands into Asia.
Boss sceptical, Bells delivers…
“On your head be it,” said the boss to his meeting organiser – names omitted to protect the sceptical – and it was up to the team at Bells at Killcare to not only deliver an excellent two-day offsite meeting experience to the boss, who’d never heard of them, but also to save the job of their client.
Having never heard of the tranquil property which sits on the beautiful Bouddi Peninsula just over one hour north of Sydney, Bells’ Deborah Ramsay says the letter from the client praised the staff, the food and the rooms and said, in part, “…I just wanted to thank you and your team for making me look so good! My boss hadn’t heard of Bells and when I booked Bells for their two day offsite meeting I was told ‘on your head be it!’ Well he can’t stop raving about Bells and is already planning the next off site meeting at Bells!”
Something different from the usual Hunter Valley meeting options, Bells at Killcare not only offers state-of-the-art conference facilities for 80 to 220, plenty of break-out spaces, bars and a library, it has a multi-award winning restaurant, run by Stefano Manfredi, a cooking school, kitchen garden tours and 25 cottages with Ralph Lauren furnishings, all with Wi-Fi.
For smaller events the Garden Room opens out onto the verandah, overlooking the extensive gardens. It too has both Wi-Fi and broadband outlet connections, seats 10 to 20 and is popular for executive retreats and board meetings.
The tranquil property, popular with major corporates including the finance sector, has a luxury day spa and a unique accommodation option – an absolute beachfront four bedroom house sleeping eight that was built as a getaway for advertising guru John Singleton.
Sydney is on track for growth with a myriad of new developments recently completed, on the drawing board or underway, including the Sydney International Convention, Exhibition and Entertainment Precinct (SICEEP).
Describing SICEEP as a real game changer, Lyn Lewis-Smith says, “when complete, SICEEP will offer Australia’s largest exhibition space, Australia’s largest meeting room space, Australia’s largest convention hall capacity, and truly cement Sydney’s position as the country’s number one business event destination”.
She says Sydney has a strong, diverse and appealing current offering that continues to attract association events, corporate incentives and meetings.
“Part of this core offering is our city’s thriving business environment and strong intellectual capital. Sydney is a leading global finance centre, a hub of Australian research centres, home to world-class universities and a thriving local creative industries community, and boasts some of the world’s brightest minds. Events are attracted to this potential – the potential for delegates to connect, collaborate and innovate in a dynamic Asia-Pacific knowledge hub.
“With more and more destinations competing in the business events arena, Sydney’s mix of beauty and brains will be a hallmark of our city’s business events success.”
However Sydney’s future success as a business events destination also hinges on its ability to collaborate as a city, says the BESydney CEO. Her organisation is increasingly working across government departments to maximise competiveness as a business events destination, but also to fully realise the benefits of business events coming to Sydney, beyond simply the tourism dollar.
She revealed that this approach had already resulted in development of some interesting strategy with the Department of Trade and Investment and collaborative efforts to leverage the potential of the major events calendar for business event scheduling with Destination NSW.
“This engagement will only grow in the future as the ‘whole of city approach’ also means heightening our connection with industry suppliers to innovatively tackle future problems and also engaging the private sector to enhance our city’s offering,” she said.
Visit www.businesseventssydney.com.au to learn more.
Hilton website launch
Hilton Worldwide’s new website for meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions, www.HiltonEvents.com.au, is a central information source and online tool designed to make searching, planning and booking a meeting or event with Hilton properties across Australasia even easier.
Featuring an easy-to-use search function it allows users (both consumer and business event planners) to find their perfect venue for conferences, meetings, training days, weddings, parties and much more.
The website provides information such as packages, special offers, menus, floor plans and a capacity chart for each venue as well as destination information for those not local to the area.
In conjunction with the launch of the website, a special promotion called ‘Flexible Meetings, Flexible Offer’ allows any event planner to choose two complimentary add-ons should they confirm their event within 21 days of enquiring and is available at any one of the 15 Hilton properties across Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and French Polynesia.