Virgin Australia’s recent Dreamtime Extra Mile Experience set the benchmark as to how event planners can work with an airline to deliver a world-class business event. Here’s how the VA crew left a lasting impression. By Lauren Arena

Hosted buyers are used to being spoilt, often pampered with business class flights, luxe hotel suites and (perhaps too many) corporate gifts. So, as the platinum airline sponsor of Business Events Australia’s Dreamtime 2013 program, Virgin Australia (VA) decided to up the ante when it devised its Extra Mile Experience for 85 international delegates.

The brief was simple: to create a memorable experience that would sweep these high-flyers off their feet.

“As the delegates who attended Dreamtime 2013 were used to receiving incredible hospitality and experiencing world-class entertainment, Virgin Australia had the opportunity to do things a bit differently,” VA general manager, marketing communications, Michael Scott, said.

With this came the key objective to provide a personal and consistent presence that would keep delegates engaged before, during, and after the event.

The lead up: November to December

The airline’s first touch point was a gift sent to the delegates prior to their arrival (November 27) that could be used for their journey – a premium branded leather luggage tag and leather business card holder, along with a personal card wishing them well.
As the event edged closer, an eDM was sent out (December 2) with a welcome message and a video link introducing a VA crew member on behalf of the crew that would be looking after them during their stay in Australia.

At the event: Melbourne activations

Arrival: December 8
As delegates arrived from around the world (all flying business-class), they were greeted at the arrival gates by VA crew members who assisted with their bags and, after escorting them onto shuttle buses, distributed cold hand towels so delegates could freshen up. Upon arrival at the hotel, delegates were given welcome cards that explained an exclusive lounge area had been set up for them by Virgin Australia. The space, a dedicated area in the hotel lobby, included refreshments, magazines and international newspapers, and a shoulder massage service.

In their hotel rooms, delegates were then welcomed with a personalised gift package – a Virgin Australia Samsung Galaxy tablet, pre-loaded with the Virgin Australia Entertainment App as well as images and content from Virgin Australia and Tourism Australia. Once turned on, the tablet featured a video message from a VA crew member welcoming the delegate to Melbourne and inviting them to the Virgin Australia lounge bar at the gala dinner.

Business events session: December 9 – 10
Business events sessions were held across two days, with appointments taking place in a VA-dedicated booth that also provided an additional space where delegates could sit back and relax with a coffee. VA crew members also welcomed attendees to the Melbourne Convention Centre, escorting them through the centre and handing out refreshment towels throughout the day.

Gala dinner: December 10
At the gala dinner VA created a bespoke Lounge Bar for guests to enjoy a cocktail – ‘The Australian’ – crafted by the airline’s culinary ambassador, chef Luke Mangan, in a personalised VA cocktail glass. Crew members helped serve drinks and escorted delegates to their seats, while Luke Mangan spoke about the evening’s menu. Following this, speeches were delivered by the airline’s CEO, John Borghetti, and GM, marketing and communications, Michael Scott.

Post event: educational tours (December 11-13)

Following the Melbourne part of the program, delegates were placed in groups and embarked on educational tours to key Australian destinations – Adelaide, Uluru, Sydney, Cairns, and the Gold Coast. Here, the Extra Mile Experience was tailored to each destination, and delivered personally by the crew.

Prior to departure, delegates received a goodie bag filled with snacks, hand towels and water for their domestic flights in the VA Melbourne lounge. Once on board they also received a special welcome message from the pilot, as well as a message in VA’s in-flight magazine, Voyeur.

The result

Hosted buyer surveys conducted by Business Events Australia following the event revealed perceptions of Australia as a business event destination had changed after attending Dreamtime, and a whopping 100 per cent of buyers said they were either ‘very satisfied’ or ‘satisfied’ with the overall Dreamtime program.

“We have received a great amount of feedback from post-event surveys as well as from direct emails and phone calls,” Mr Scott said.

“When buyers were asked about the satisfaction of Virgin Australia there were a number of extremely positive comments on our service, product, cabin crew, in-flight experience, and the way the week was run overall.”

Given the success of the Extra Mile Experience, Mr Scott said the airline is considering maintaining its sponsorship of Dreamtime as well as extending the offer to event planners and other events.

“With the Extra Mile Experience being such a success, we would definitely look at using this approach for further activations where appropriate.

“As people and service are Virgin Australia’s greatest asset, and something we place pride in, we will look at any opportunity to offer this type of experience to other groups,” he said.