WORDS AND IMAGES BY GRAEME KEMLO
Graeme Kemlo took one for the team to take part in TNQ’s annual educational. And he liked what he saw.
Day one of the annual Sell TNQ and buyers and media fly in from Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Auckland. And, as usual, Rosie Douglas and the whole Sell TNQ team are at the airport to greet us.
Ongoing updates to Cairns airport as part of a $200 million upgrade of the domestic terminal are visible and we quickly get our luggage and are on the coach to lunch at Cairns Convention Centre hosted by sales director Jenny Graham.
The convention centre has been upgraded too, with helpful electronic signage and the second plenary space, used for major basketball, has been redecorated in more muted tones, better suited to business events than barrackers.
More updates are on the way, one of which will provide an outdoor event space protected from sudden tropical rainbursts.
Lunch is typical of convention centres today – restaurant quality – no sign of the old rubber chicken.
Our accommodation is Paradise Palms Resort & Country Club, a golf resort of 96 rooms and a dozen options for meetings for 25 to 1000. Dedicated meeting rooms suit 200 and 60 (theatre), or 140 and 60 (banquet), while the separate 25 metre six-lane lap pool earns delegate praise.
Sell TNQ’s welcome cocktail party at Cairns Tropical Zoo shows how a diverse collection of native and exotic animals can backdrop a great group event.
Director Angela Freeman leads us in a progressive dinner among the inmates, who must have laughed at the funny ears we donned in the spirit of a fun night. We did the “bush turkey”, a local version of the hokey-pokey, and it became a running gag.
Day Two comprised workshop sessions at Sea Temple Palm Cove, an elegant five-star beachfront resort with 26 studio, one, two or three-bedroom apartments with optional private plunge pool or rooftop terrace upgrades. Meetings options include Temple I and II for 150 (theatre) or 84 (classroom), cocktails for 120 on the terrace or the Lagoon Boardroom for 12.
Sell TNQ’s 36 industry partners update us on their offerings in eight minute sessions. It is an efficient and effective knowledge gathering exercise, with the chance to get more information coming at later events where partners and delegates have plenty to discuss.
Our morning tea at Sea Temple is fresh fruit, coconuts and smoothies under sailcloth on the terrace. Likewise afternoon tea at Novotel Palm Cove Resort is a refresher – no scones, just tropical fruit all-ways.
The Business Events Cairns & Great Barrier Reef website has won a Queensland Multi Media Award for Best Website with more than 51 pages.
Director of business events, Rosie Douglas, said the award reflected the careful work which had gone into the site’s redesign to ensure it delivered for meeting planners who are the main users of the site.
“Cairns website designer Precedence took on board the feedback we sought from meeting planners by creating time‐saving search functionality and an easy to navigate design,” she said.
“The key features of www.businesseventscairns.org.au are enhanced product search functions, improved destination information and a comprehensive resource centre with an online version of the region’s Meeting Planner Guide, image library and case studies.
“Since redesigning the website we have recorded more than a 100 per cent increase in unique site visits.”
Novotel Palm Cove is a four-star resort of 202 rooms on 45 hectares of garden, and also offers a nine-hole golf course. Its six purpose-built meeting rooms for 30 to 150 could be breakouts or dedicated event space while the Coral Reef Ballroom suits up to 500 (theatre) or 320 (banquet).
Watching the sunset is popular in these parts and we enjoy rooftop pre-dinner drinks and nibbles at Sarayi Palm Cove. Dinner is at Reef House. We take over the restaurant overlooking the palm-fringed Coral Sea.
The 69-room Reef House Boutique Resort & Spa has 13 unique event spaces for two to 100 – perfect for incentive or executive conferences.
Day Three offers rainforest or reef. I did the rainforest last year so opt for the reef, boarding the 300 passenger Sunlover to Moore Reef, a two hour run.
Host Regina White briefs us on the activities which include snorkelling, introductory scuba dives, glass-bottom boat and semi-submersible, plus helicopter rides courtesy of GBR Helicopters. The view of the reef from the air is unsurpassed and six of us count ourselves lucky. However, to see the coral gardens on a guided snorkelling tour with Ted the resident marine biologist may be a much more affordable and enlightening experience as he takes us outside the rope boundary to explain the special corals and creatures to our small group.
Dinner at Peppers Beach Club beside the pool is an indulgent way to relax after the big day on the reef. It has spa rooms, one and two-bedroom suites plus lagoon penthouses, accommodating up to 600 in total, with conference space for 110.
Day four and another typical tropic sunrise greets us. Breakfast is at the beachfront Angsana Resort & Spa, an elegant incentive property that gets delegates’ thumbs-up for its 67 one, two and three-bedroom suites. It has a boardroom for 18 and a conference room for 50 (theatre), but it also has open air spaces and a beachfront chapel that can be re-purposed to suit client needs.
Having enjoyed eggs benedict, fruit, pastries and coffee, we then prepared to hurl ourselves off a perfectly good platform into a small pond, courtesy of A J Hackett’s bungy facility. Fortunately nobody lost their breakfast on the 50 metre drop, or on the adjacent MinJin swing. Your correspondent chose to remain behind the camera to capture the action from terra firma. Sales manager Jacqui Flack explains that the venue with its undercover area, bar and two waterside decks is available for corporate events, with night jumps being popular.
Some of our group fly back home from here, but a dozen of us post-tour to learn more about TNQ. We take a smaller coach to the newly built Mossman Gorge Centre which, apart from an information centre, also has an indigenous art gallery, shop and excellent lunch at its café/restaurant. Harry from the local Kuku Yalanji community leads us on a traditional guided walk.
Our transfer to Port Douglas was inspiring and would excite any team – half of our crew got to go by helicopter, the rest by motor-tricycle. My ride is a 1600cc Volkswagen, cleverly disguised as a chopper motorbike, with two fat wheels and a double seat with seatbelts at the rear. We cruised along in radio communication with the driver and arrived at Port Douglas where we overnight at the edgy new resort, QT Port Douglas. It is five-star, but with a cheeky attitude – a refreshing change with its bright colours and hipster style on display around the resort and in your room.
It has 170 rooms, conferencing space for up to 350 and arguably the best hotel breakfast buffet with live chef station. I spent some time photographing this property. At every turn it amuses and you realise that it is the small details that often make the biggest difference.
No visit to the region would be complete without a sunset cruise and Megan Bell of the Quicksilver Group hosts us on a sail to watch the sun go down over Cape Tribulation. A progressive dinner at the 130 hectare Sheraton Mirage Port Douglas demonstrates the versatility of this property, which may be showing its age, but sets a high benchmark for service and culinary creativity.
Day five is cup day. They know how to party in Cairns. Darlene Holdsworth, sales director of the 255-room Shangri La The Marina shows us the hotel (16 meeting rooms – 330 theatre, 220 banquet, 400 cocktails) and hosts our Sell TNQ table at the event. We buy Fiorente and ride him past the post to collect a good second-place dividend – a winning note that draws a memorable visit to a close next morning – but not before we preview the new adrenalin rush Cairns ZOOm. We harness up and walk along a ledge around the outside of the glass dome atop Pullman Reef Hotel Casino.
Director of business events at Business Events Cairns & Great Barrier Reef, Rosie Douglas, told micenet AUSTRALIA at the conclusion of Sell TNQ that she received very good feedback from buyers, and “one event has already been confirmed in Cairns as a result of site inspections during Sell TNQ”.
“We’ve had very good feedback from guests and members and there is business being written and it will continue to be written over the next few months,” she said, indicating that Sell TNQ would again be staged late in 2013, this time centred on Port Douglas.
Overall the business events market in TNQ was up eight per cent on delegate days to June 30, 2012, she said. Members were very confident the trend would continue. Ms Douglas said the Cairns Convention Centre had hosted a number of events with large delegate numbers “up to 2500”and Port Douglas was performing strongly.
Big wins for centre
The Cairns Convention Centre is getting ready to host more than 12,000 delegates, generating 125,000 additional hotel room nights for the region in 2013.
As one of Australia’s premier destinations for business events, organisers recognise the value proposition Cairns represents, together with the excellent business events infrastructure and outstanding natural attractions.
Upcoming events include a mix of international and national associations and high profile corporate meetings. Forthcoming conventions include:
Australian Veterinary Association (1000 delegates)
5th Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care Conference (1000 delegates)
11th World Convention of the International Confederation of Principals (1500 delegates)
International Symposium on Plasma Chemistry
The volume of business is set to continue with the Cairns Convention Centre recently securing several new meetings for the destination including:
2016 Advances in Neuroblastoma Research Conference
3rd World Congress on Larynx Cancer 2015
2014 Surveying and Spatial Sciences Conference
General manager Ross Steele said: “With the addition of new airline routes providing direct access to China, conference managers recognise not only the value Cairns represents but also the opportunity to grow membership and delegate numbers when they host their meetings in our stunning destination.”