Business events and conferences are at the heart of a new era Sydney is entering with Darling Harbour and the opening of a A$1.5 billion venue symbolising the city’s standing as a knowledge hub and incentive destination.
The much anticipated opening of International Convention Centre Sydney also raises the stakes as Australian cities compete for more meetings and incentive groups from across Asia Pacific.
Sydney’s prowess as a major business events destination had been cast into doubt when the original conference and exhibition centre in Darling Harbour was closed for demolition in 2013. Large exhibitions had been moved to a temporary facility at Glebe Island while other Australian cities basked in the business events limelight.
With the opening of ICC Sydney, the stage has been set not only for raising the city’s international events profile, but promoting Sydney’s education and business strengths.
The Global Startup Ecosystem Report shows that 2,300 new tech companies are based in Sydney along with half of Australia’s 500 largest companies.
Education, technology and finance are also rising to the fore with the University of Sydney’s nano-science hub to support research into IT, health, medicine, science and the environment. ICC Sydney has also secured tech-based conferences including Sibos in 2018, CeBIT Australia in 2017 and the RoboCup International Symposium in 2019.
Pleasant scenery, pedestrian-friendly precincts and iconic landmarks are also a selling point for the new look Darling Harbour. A short boat ride away is Barangaroo, where the first European prospectors entered Australia. Developments in Barangaroo will see Sydney strengthening its position as a financial centre for Asia Pacific and this, combined with ICC Sydney and the city’s education acumen, are set to attract more conference and incentive groups.
Ideas around Darling Harbour
ICC Sydney is capable of hosting three major conventions simultaneously, each with its own dedicated plenary, meeting rooms and catering areas, says Geoff Donaghy, the centre’s CEO. “It is also home to 70 meeting rooms, three tiered theatres that range from 1,000 seats to 8,000 seats, Australia’s largest ballroom, a 5,000 sqm outdoor event Deck, and 35,000 sqm of internal exhibition space.”
Tumbalong Boulevard is the new link that enhances ICC Sydney’s connectivity with the Darling Harbour precinct, while Tumbalong Park also has a Chinese garden and leads on to nearby China Town.
Welcome to Country
A public acknowledgement to Australia’s indigenous peoples and their land is a common practice among the country’s leaders. Visiting groups can gain a further insight in to the history of the aboriginal people with a traditional “welcome to country” at Darling Harbour. VIP groups have been welcomed by leading members of the community, such as Charles “Chicka” Madden, a community leader who is also a sculptor and painter.
Australian National Maritime Museum
Along with 11 venues inside the building, including a 210-seat theatre, three vessels moored outside can also be used for events. The Action Stations exhibition makes for a dramatic prelude to cocktails or a banquet on the helicopter deck of the former battleship HMAS Vampire.
The Action Stations audio-visual relives the drama of combat operations at sea before groups enter the exhibition and the outdoor deck where 200 can be hosted for cocktails and 50 for a sit-down dinner at a long table beneath the guns.
The Endeavour (above), replica of the vessel on which Lieutenant James Cook sailed to Australia, is being aimed at high-end incentives. The tall-mast ship, with 18th century fittings, can host 12 for a dinner and 70 for cocktails.
Events at both HMAS Vampire and Endeavour also have the option of a tour guide. Company or association logos can also be beamed from the museum lighthouse.
The maritime museum’s main complex also includes a conference centre with the main space seating 140 theatre style or 200 for cocktails. The Lighthouse Gallery and terraces overlooking Darling Harbour, Pyrmont and out to Barangaroo are also available for events.
Sydney Opera House
A chef’s table with views of the harbour is available in the venue’s revamped kitchens. Groups can also be catered for at the venue’s three eateries: Aria, Bennelong and Opera Kitchen. Boat tours can be taken a short walk from the steps of the world famous landmark.
Sydney Bridge Climb
Such is the popularity of the bridge among Chinese incentive groups that karaoke has been added to itineraries. Putonghua-speaking guides are also available through Sydney Bridge Climb, which can tailor experiences to the requirements of a group.
A boat from the Opera House can take groups past Barangaroo, the site where the first European settlers landed and is named after an 18th-century female Aboriginal leader.
Office towers, luxury residences and chic restaurants are taking shape in the area, which will be Sydney’s new financial and technology district.
A new ferry pier is due to open in early 2017 and there is also a 2km-long harbourside walkway, along with the six-hectare Barangaroo Reserve that has fine views of the Harbour Bridge. Cycling and walking trails will be a feature of the area that will also be home to 75,000 native trees and shrubs.
Former warehouses and docksides have found a new use as luxury apartments, restaurants and, in the case of one Hong Kong company, a hotel. Ovolo expanded into Sydney with the opening of two hotels: Ovolo Woolloomooloo and Ovolo 1888 Darling Harbour.
Since launching its Piper Rooms venue (below) in May 2016, Ovolo Woolloomooloo has been hosting corporate events ranging from residential off-sites for leading pharmaceutical companies to extravagant product launches for international champagne houses.
And the opening of ICC Sydney is good news for other hotels in the area, including a Sofitel next to the new venue which is due for completion in December 2017, and Sheraton by Four Points Sydney, Darling Harbour.
“Ovolo 1888 Darling Harbour will directly benefit from the opening of the ICC and we are incredibly excited to soon have one of Asia-Pacific’s most technologically advanced, five-star convention, exhibition and entertainment venues located practically on our doorstep,” says Dave Baswal, Ovolo’s director of finance and operations, Australia.
“We are receiving a high volume of accommodation reservations directly related to future events and anticipate that these numbers will grow as more large-scale international events are secured.
“Corporate events and MICE travellers will become an increasingly important part of our strategic growth plan in the country. Australia is experiencing unprecedented growth in international travellers, while domestic travel is also growing at a healthy rate. We believe this will continue in the short and medium term and for the hospitality sector to take a larger share of the economy,” Baswal says.