July 5, 2022 | By Graeme Kemlo

Albury Wodonga, the twin cities on the Murray at the Victoria-New South Wales border are geographically well positioned to draw business event delegates from Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra. Pre-COVID they hosted more than 100 major conferences a year, and a raft of recent infrastructure developments makes this destination even more appealing.

Already serviced by Rex and Qantas Link, Albury has also been named as a destination by incoming airline, Bonza, which will use its 747-Max 8s accommodating about 200 passengers to service the destination from Melbourne by October this year.

Hosting 1,000 plus delegates is no problem: there’s more than 60 accommodation providers and 4,000 beds already in the region, but new hotels and meeting venues will see the potential capacity more than double to 2,000-delegate events within three years. The cities already attract their fair share of association meetings as well as government events, given the presence of state and federal government departments in Albury and Wodonga.

Funding has been secured from federal, state and local government for a $30 million redevelopment of Albury Entertainment Centre with a focus on the convention wing. The Entertainment Centre as a whole can already host major business events in its 818-seat tiered auditorium and in its 750-pax Banquet Hall, but the redevelopment will add space to accommodate either another 1,000 seat plenary, 600-pax banquet space or exhibition space for 65 booths, plus a range of other flexible meeting spaces. Tenders for the expansion project are expected to be called next year, with work to commence in 2024, and completion of the project in 2025.

Already this year Albury Wodonga has hosted major events including the Rotary District 9800 Conference in April and the National Carbon Farming Conference & Expo over four days in May. The region will also host the National Renewables in Agriculture Conference and Expo next month and the Murray Darling Association’s 78th National Conference for three days in September.

Redevelopment has also seen transformation across the Murray where The Quarter is planned to be a new commercial, dining and residential precinct in Wodonga’s city centre.

The Victorian government has recently announced Junction Place Wodonga, describing it as regional Australia’s largest urban renewal initiative, bringing new life to the former historic railway station and railyards in central Wodonga and doubling the size of the city’s CBD. Nearby is Wodonga’s latest meeting facility, The Cube, which offers a range of spaces, retractable seating, flexible walls and a central auditorium for up to 392 attendees, plus smaller meeting spaces for up to 24 and an outdoor courtyard for cocktails or performances.

With the emergence of business accommodation of 100 rooms or more from Quest, Mantra, Quality and announcements from other major groups, including Marriott, Hyatt and IHG that they will move beyond the capital cities and into regions, Albury Wodonga’s 100,000 population base surely looks appealing. The twin cities are predicted to have grown their total population about 18 per cent by 2035.

Buoyed by domestic tourism’s resurgence following the end of COVID lockdowns, even mid-century accommodation such as the 45-room Astor Hotel/Motel has turned its 50s look into a trendy Palm Springs-style pastel-hued property. And boutique hotels have sprung up, including Circa1928, which transformed an Art Deco Rural Bank building in Albury’s main street into an art-themed luxury boutique retreat and day spa.

They’ve even got laneways tucked away where you can discover espresso specialists. What more could a Melbourne coffee snob want?