February 11, 2022 | By Graeme Kemlo

Among those cheering at the Federal Government’s announcement that Australia’s international borders will open this month are the City of Melbourne and 20,000 Rotarians.

Before COVID and the border closure that has scuttled two years of international delegate arrivals, Melbourne won the bid “against stiff competition” to host the 114th International Rotary Convention for 2023. It was to be the largest and most valuable conference ever held in the city, although the 50,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses who attended their international convention in Melbourne in November 2019, filling Marvel Stadium may have stolen the attendance record from the Rotarians.

For the 20,000 anticipated attendees, the event from May 17-31 next year has pre-booked 7,000 hotel rooms across 50 Melbourne hotels – a much needed boost for the sector. The convention is expected to draw delegates from 200 countries and generate $88 million for the Victorian economy.

But with business event postponements and meetings being pushed back into the second half of 2022 and 2023 as COVID and its variants persist, there were serious concerns as to whether the convention would proceed.

Rotary International eventually turned its 2021 convention into a virtual event while its 2022 event in Houston, Texas, is still scheduled to go ahead as a face-to-face event, despite high numbers of local COVID-19 cases.

The Melbourne convention will be staged at Rod Laver Arena at Melbourne Park, which can seat 15,000, and at Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre with its 6,000-seat plenary space.