One of Australia’s most widely recognised images is of endless sandy beaches, with lifeguards on patrol, surfers riding the waves and crowds of laid-back sun-seekers topping up their tans.
The beach environment seems to epitomise much of what “Brand Australia” stands for – relaxation, outdoor activities, great weather and natural attractions.
Yet the benefits of resort destinations go far beyond leisure. Australian resort areas have a great deal to offer meeting and incentive programmes that can’t be found in either the major cities of Sydney and Melbourne or in Asian resort destinations such as Bali or Phuket.
The substantial drop in the Australian dollar, which in the past year alone has seen it drop by about 35 percent against the US dollar, also means that the country offers great value for money. As airlines struggle to fill seats with leisure passengers, event organisers now have substantial leverage to negotiate great fares from most Asian destinations on major carriers.
One other advantage for the country is Tourism Australia Business Events team’s aggressive approach to attracting corporate groups and its willingness to smooth the way by liaising with immigration and customs authorities for major events. This is reinforced by the work and support of the local convention bureaus, who provide a level of local knowledge, contacts and expertise that is rarely found elsewhere in the region.
The city of Cairns in tropical north Queensland provides modern urban facilities in a region dominated by tropical rainforests on land and the Great Barrier Reef offshore. The contrast in these great environments is one of Cairns’ selling points.
Jenny Graham, director of sales at the Cairns Convention Centre, says: “Cairns is a world-class conference destination and Australia’s gateway to the Asia-Pacific region.
“The destination offers cost-effective ground arrangements,making it a responsible choice for event organisers in the current economic climate.”
She stresses that natural attractions coexist with modern amenities.
“The city has world-class business events infrastructure, an international airport and the best natural assets: the Great Barrier Reef and the world’s oldest rainforest.
“Over 600 tours depart daily taking delegates to dazzling reefs, palm-fringed islands, tropical rainforests the alluring outback and true Australian adventure.”
Graham reels off what she feels are Cairns’ key advantages. “Cairns is home to the best aboriginal cultural experiences in Australia.
“The Cairns Convention Centre is 10 minutes from the Cairns International Airport. It is ideally located in the city’s heart, only minutes walking distance from a wide range of three-, four- and five-star hotels and serviced apartments.
“Recent conventions held at the Cairns Convention Centre have experienced larger than anticipated delegate numbers, particularly from Asia-Pacific. This not only ensured a successful event, it also afforded clients the opportunity to grow their membership base from this important region.”
Jacqui Taylor, director – business events, Gold Coast Convention Bureau, says: “The Gold Coast has always been a popular leisure destination but the business events facilities here are tremendous. There has been a major renovation at the Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre, for example.
“We have a range of luxury hotels, many with large conference facilities and we have a great nightlife.”
The Gold Coast’s estimated 65,000 hotel rooms mean that organisers will always be able to find suitable accommodation from the standard to the sublime.
Names such as Conrad Jupiters, Crown Plaza, Sofitel, Sheraton Mirage and Palazzo Versace give a sense of how wide the options are.
However, no one visits the Gold Coast to spend too much time in their hotel room. The place is about action and activity.
The coast is home to a number of huge theme parks, such as Sea World, Water World and Movie World.
Groups can take a fun Hollywood theme for their event or choose to get close to nature. Sailing and marine activities are obvious elements to add into your programme and the dining choices are too wide to even list.
The Gold Coast’s energetic convention bureau is well versed in meeting the needs of group enquiries and in suggesting and directing organisers to consider options they may not be initially aware of.
As host to Amway China, one of the largest Asian incentive programmes, the Gold Coast delighted several thousand delegates in 2007. The guests arrived in six waves of 1,200 each, staggered across a period of three weeks in March.
The Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre was one of the major venues and started a special recruitment drive for Mandarin- and Cantonese-speaking staff six months beforehand, targeting the many Chinese-speaking students in the local Asian community. The event helped reinforce the Gold Coast’s reputation as a destination that can deliver.
Named after the British naturalist Charles Darwin, Darwin is the most northerly capital of any Australian territory or state. The city is located in the Northern Territory’s Top End and is actually closer to Singapore than Canberra, Australia’s capital.
The Northern Territory is the most unspoilt part of Australia and one with a rich indigenous culture. Added to this is that Darwin has become a popular spot for Asian immigrants and you have a melting pot of nationalities and cuisines that other cities many times its size lack.
The recently opened Darwin Convention Centre has transformed the city’s ability to hold larger events although flight access remains the biggest, but hardly insurmountable challenge.
The Medina Grand Darwin and the Vibe Hotel Darwin have opened in Darwin and collectively add 241 more rooms and serviced apartments to the city’s accommodation stocks. Both properties are located in the new Darwin City Waterfront Precinct, which houses a number of restaurants and bar venues that organisers could consider using, and are directly adjacent to the Darwin Convention Centre.
Another recent addition is the Crocosaurus Cove, which opened late in 2008, with Saltwater Crocodile displays and unique interactive experiences. With an area of more than 5,000sqm, it has very quickly established itself as a popular venue for conference and incentive social events.
The manager of the Northern Territory Convention Bureau (NTCB), Lynn Fairbrass, says: “As the tropical capital city of the territory, Darwin offers a relaxed outdoor lifestyle, warm weather all year-round and with the sea on three sides of the city, fabulous waterside venues abound, from our convention centre through to gala dinner locations on manicured lawns by the sea.”
With a coastline more than 5,000 km long, conference delegates also have easy access to the ultimate Top End experience – a fishing safari on Darwin’s pristine harbour. Fiery red sunsets and calm waters make cruising Darwin Harbour a must-do experience, as does attending the Mindil Beach Sunset Markets which operate from April till October. For those with a more flexible schedule, a flight up to the nearby Tiwi Islands offers an experience rich in aboriginal culture and history.
Taking its name from the fact that it gets an average of 12 hours of brilliant weather a day, the Sunshine Coast in Queensland combines four areas: Caloundra, Maroochy, Noosa and Cooloola. All are within a couple of hours drive of Brisbane’s international airport.
Anne-Marie Coulton, manager of the Sunshine Coast Convention Bureau (SCCB)says: “There has been and continues to be an enormous investment into business events infrastructure across the Sunshine Coast, and it is starting to pay dividends. While leisure tourism has had a tough year, Queensland statistics show 694 business events were held on the Sunshine Coast in the 2007-2008 financial year, up almost 16 percent on the previous period.
“There are now more than 32 venues across the region with purpose-built meeting facilities with about 15 of these really driving this lucrative, but competitive market.”
To help planners choose activities and venues, the SCCB has just launched the 2009-2010 Business Events “Navigator”.
The Navigator includes extensive information on venues and accommodation, wining and dining options plus incentive and activity ideas.
Bureau manager Anne-Marie Coulton says: “The Sunshine Coast has enjoyed tremendous growth in business events over the past few years, and with a number of new products coming online in the next 12 months, there is even more reason to consider the destination for business events of all types.”
Among the developments that Coulton refers to are a number of new resort complexes under construction.
Outrigger Little Hastings Street Resort & Spa, Noosa will feature one of the region’s largest conference facilities catering for 350 delegates and up to 500 across a range of meeting rooms when it opens in early 2010.
There are also offsite venues that can be used such as The Plantation in Noosa, which is a conference and event destination set on 8.5ha of magnificent grounds.
Located at Cooroy in Noosa’s hinterland, The Plantation (www.theplantation.com.au) is only 20 minutes from the main stretch at Noosa and its accommodation options.
The grounds of The Plantation provide space large enough to set up large marquees, making this the ideal venue for gala events for up to 500 people. If you have a more intimate group, the Summerhouse and BBQ area provides a beautiful relaxed setting. There is plenty of room for buses and car parking.
Australia’s resort areas are well stocked with venues, accommodation and activities making it difficult to choose which region for your event. The key is to work closely with the convention bureaus and allow them to filter the options for you based on your needs and requests. This saves time and headaches on the organisers’ part.
For groups with limited time and budgets, Australia can provide compact and now very affordable options for your programme. Those with slightly more generous budgets and are less hurried, resort choices can be easily mixed with a large-city option, generating added value for your event dollar.
Qantas and its subsidiary Jetstar connect the continent to the world. Other major international airlines and budget carriers fly visitors to various Australian destinations. Aside from the main gateways of Melbourne and Sydney, Brisbane has a number of international connections as has Cairns.
As the sixth largest country in the world, it offers visitors a variety of ways to get around upon arrival. Capital cities in Australia are served by a wide variety of public transport, including trains, buses, ferries, monorail, light rail and trams. Visitors will find public transport efficient, clean, reliable and affordable.
Air travel is advisable for short trips between cities and sights. For a more leisurely pace, visitors can explore by road or rail. Self-drive is an increasingly popular way to travel with Australia’s well-maintained network of roads and some of the most beautiful road touring sights in the world. Rail travel, from budget to luxury journeys, is also popular and can take you across the vast heart of the continent from top to bottom.
The Australian summer from December to February is warm and sunny and it is also the rainy season in the continent’s tropical regions in the north. Spring and autumn are mild and are the best seasons for bush walks and discovering nature. The Australian winter June to August is generally mild.
The Australian sun can be quite strong, so it’s best to wear a shirt and put on a hat while enjoying the great outdoors. Sunscreen containing SPF30+ coverage is recommended.
Visitors will need a passport that will still be valid for at least six months after their scheduled return. They will also need to apply for the appropriate visa during their stay. For more details, log on to www.immi.gov.au.
Albert Ho, Citystate Travel, Singapore on Darwin
“I had originally thought that Darwin was a pretty quiet town with not much to do, but participating on the Northern Territory Convention Bureau familiarisation trip certainly changed that view.
“The Darwin Waterfront project is very exciting with the new convention centre and the two new hotels, Medina and Vibe offering great facilities. The visit to the Museum and Art Gallery of Northern Territory was very interesting, especially the exhibits on Cyclone Tracy and “Sweetheart”, the infamous 5.4-metre crocodile. It was also quite an experience to come up close to a real B52 Bomber aircraft at the Aviation Heritage Centre. The deep-sea fishing excursion from Darwin is also a great activity on offer.
“We enjoyed some good dining over the three-day programme, and I was very impressed by the fusion-cuisine on offer – Pee Wee’s at the Point was also a great location for sunset cocktails. The Kakadu river cruise was quite an experience, with the highlight being the sighting of a live four-metre crocodile.
“The NTCB has a high level of preparedness and enthusiasm and the Darwin Convention Centre team and the Darwin industry showed us very warm and friendly hospitality.”
Victoria Wales, HOT Events, New Zealand on Gold Coast
“It was great to do some ‘touristy’ things as when we are on a site you don’t often have a chance to do it – and it is such an important part of conferences and incentives. The venues and hotels on the Gold Coast were very good quality, sales people were very professional. As you can see, I loved it and I have been telling anyone who will listen.”
GOLD COAST ITINERARY
Arrive at Gold Coast or Brisbane Airport, transfer to accommodation and check in at Conrad Jupiters or Sofitel Gold Coast.
Free time to refresh. Enjoy an in-room massage, head to Pacific Fair Shopping Centre or simply relax by the hotel pool.
Dining in broadbeach
Broadbeach progressive dinner at various restaurant and bar outlets that are part of the Broadbeach Alliance.
Dreamworld & WhiteWater World
Breakfast with the Tigers and then park activities.
Buffet lunch at “Four Winds” Revolving Restaurant Crowne Plaza Surfers Paradise.
Meet at hotel lobby for Harley Davidson Joyride around Broadbeach and Surfers’ Paradise.
Pre-dinner drinks and nibbles at one of Australia’s tallest buildings.
Transfer to Warner Bros
Cocktails on the streets of “Gotham City”, followed by dinner in Bruce Wayne’s
Return transfer and overnight at hotel.
Meet in hotel lobby to transfer to breakfast.
Breakfast with the dolphins.
Arrive via helicopter at Couran Cove Island Resort; Island Challenge Treasure Hunt, followed by buffet lunch.
Depart for McLarens Landing, transfer by speedboat.
Afternoon of activities including 4WD tour, sand tobogganing, speedboat rides or parasailing.
Depart on Tall Ship
Afternoon Tea on Tall Ship.
Hyatt Regency Sanctuary Cove
Arrive via Tall Ship at hotel and check in.
Palazzo Versace Hotel
Farewell seafood buffet dinner.
Transfer back to Hyatt Regency Sanctuary Cove.
Breakfast at hotel, then airport.transfers throughout the day. Delegates will depart to either Gold Coast or Brisbane airports. depending on their connections