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The Good Life

Rumble down under
Australia is fast becoming the destination of choice for business events

Krishna Gopalan

The folks in Adelaide have not quite recovered from the experience of hosting perhaps the most important match of the cricket World Cup last February. India was playing arch-rival Pakistan and there was not one empty seat at the iconic Adelaide Oval. People had flown in from India, Pakistan, the US, Singapore and pretty much every cricket-friendly place you can think of. Not even a match between host Australia and traditional rival New Zealand had ever created such a frenzy. “There wasn’t a single room available at any hotel in the city. It was quite stunning for us to go through that experience,” laughs Damien Kitto, CEO, Adelaide Convention Bureau, a body that regulates business events in south Australia. Adelaide also played host to Dreamtime 2015, Tourism Australia’s biennial business event. Spread across five days, this event saw representatives from all over make pitches to anyone interested in doing business in Australia.

In her opening address at Dreamtime, Frances-Anne Keeler, deputy CEO, Tourism Australia, mentioned that this was the first time the event was being hosted in south Australia. “This is to highlight Australia’s strength as a destination for business events. Adelaide is the best way to demonstrate that with its unprecedented infrastructure,” she said. The city boasts of an expanded convention centre, which played host to business sessions that featured over 70 representatives from across Australia. “We are positioning Australia as a multi-dimensional country. It is a large country with a great natural landscape and boasts of iconic destinations such as the Great Barrier Reef and the Sydney Opera House,” says Penny Lion, Tourism Australia’s general manager. Australia has been on the list of the most desirable destinations in the world for a while, trailing behind Italy, Japan, USA and Canada at fifth position. 

To most people, Australia is more well-known for its large cities, such as Sydney and Melbourne. “In the recent past, we have seen Indians make their way to places like the Gold Coast. Many companies, too, have hosted their annual events in Australia,” points out Lion. The facts bear her statement out, given that as many as 6.31 lakh international business event visitors descended on the country in 2014, 8% more than 2013. This also meant a total spend of an impressive AUD $2.5 billion. Business can also be combined with pleasure, and the cricket World Cup is a perfect example of that. A large number of business delegations made their way to Adelaide for this event. “They all came from India and cricket was the vehicle,” says Kitto. Sensing an opportunity in business tourism, a relatively smaller city like Adelaide is spending as much as AUD $2.5 billion on development. “A pretty serious transformation is underway and we will see a new-look Adelaide,” he adds.

Historically, what has been a challenge is Australia’s location, making it a long haul from any part of the world. Over time, air connectivity into and within the country has made things a lot easier. “There are very few places where one can combine serious business meetings with an equal proportion of nature or high-quality tourism. Australia is right on top of that list,” says Lion. The line of thinking is very simple – to promote as many events as possible. In addition to interesting destinations, fine food and wines make Australia an extremely attractive destination. “We would like to believe this is a multifaceted country with both beauty and brains,” quips Lion, adding, “We would like Australia to be an aspirational destination and we are well on track to do exactly that,” says Lion. There is very little reason to actually disagree with that view.

Disclosure: The author was in Adelaide at the invitation of Tourism Australia

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