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ISSUE 66 / ConfErEnCE & MEEtIngS World / 41AustraliaThere was plenty of talent on show at these events, including a set by the 14-year-old winner of Australia's Got Talent, Jack Vidgen; didgeridoo player William Barton and the acrobatic dancers of Justice Crew.Adrian Penfold of UK event organiser Pink Echidna said Dreamtime had been "most informative. The one thing we look for when heading away on a fam trip is education. Taking a week out of my busy work schedule to learn more about a destination and what it has to offer is a always a judgement call. On this occasion I am pleased to say this was most definitely a good call."Experiencing the new Qantas Airbus was something else and the stand out experiences were the scenic sea plane flights over the Barrier Reef, and landing at Whitehaven Beach. "The accommodation at Qualia was amazing and, in terms of the incentive client who is looking for that Above: room with a Harbour viewBESydney secured 63 events for Sydney in 2011, bringing in 48,588 delegatesLyn Lewis-smithWhitsundays, however. In fact it is a challenge to find a view that is not spectacular. Planners with bigger meetings in mind could also consider Hamilton Island Yacht Club, which is available for event and function hire and being the largest population centre in the islands it also offers more hotel accommodation if your group is larger and needs options.While no one is likely to complain at spending their whole trip on the Whitsundays, a two-centre incentive may tick more boxes, with Brisbane or Sydney being brought into the equation.If you're lucky enough to travel out to Australia on one of Qantas' Airbus A380s, then the psychological barrier of distance is, perhaps, not so daunting. And, with the Whitsundays, it is hard to think of a better location for jetlag recovery.SydneyAnd so, on to Sydney, where BESydney, which unites over 200 private sector stakeholders spanning the events and business tourism industry, put together a two-day programme to show off the best of Australia's No.1 business event destination to the Dreamtime participants. The groups were literally launched into the Sydney Harbour experience, with a two-hour sailing lesson that gave all shipmates hands-on opportunities to steer, winch and chart a course. All that was missing was a bit of wind to set up a competition between the groups, although I'm sure the captains were more than relieved we didn't get to race.Other harbour activities included a tour of the Sydney Opera House and a walk up the Harbour Bridge. Some also struck out to Bondi Beach for a surfing lesson. The stereotype was not to be fully realised because of some steady rain, proof that there are times when you may need an umbrella Down Under. A gala dinner hosted by actor Daniel MacPherson at Taronga Zoo and a harbourside welcome drinks party with fusion food and culture under a marquee were elegant tasters of the kind of backdrops on offer for that special event celebration.The set piece gatherings highlighted the collaborative network of world-class industry suppliers in New South Wales.

42 / ConferenCe & Meetings World / issUe 66Australiathe rise in international business travel arrivals to Sydney BESydnEy StatiSticS7%something extra special and to really feel like a VIP, there is no place in Australia better."The showcasing of insects and reptiles during pre-dinner drinks at the zoo was also a great treat. Yes, I will be coming back!!"Christa Buttigieg, Head of Awards Dinners at Euromoney Conferences was keen to source a Sydney venue for an event taking place in March 2012 and said she had come away with "plenty of ideas" having undertaken several site inspections.Big investment programmeSydney has AUS$10bn worth of real estate developments either on the drawing board or underway and a new convention precinct project is due for completion in 2016. This includes at its heart an expansion of the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre..Acting CEO of BESydney, Lyn Lewis-Smith, spoke to CMW about how she believed the developments would underpin Sydney's future in an increasingly competitive industry."Sydney has long been Australia's iconic face to world, and has performed extremely well in attracting high-profile association and large corporate events to our shores," she said."Sydney's strengths as a true global city, offering both beauty and brains, have helped us to succeed and overcome challenges, such as distance from our major source markets.In late September 2011, the New South Wales State Government announced the convention precinct would be expanded to encompass 12 hectares of prime inner city land. The convention facilities are to have a flexible capacity for at least 10,000 delegates, 40,000sqm of exhibition space and premium banqueting facilties for up to 4,000 people.The Barangaroo waterfront development, meanwhile, will be the last harbourside site in the CBD to be developed. The 22-hectare site will be a fusion of retail, business, residential and green space. "Barangaroo will grow its capacity, as it is predicted to house a large number of Asia-Pacific corporate headquarters," said Lewis-Smith."Sydney's dynamic business environment has attractted many business events to our shores and continues to attract foreign investment and trade, but we appreciate our good looks are not enough at a time when event planners are looking for destinations that offer an ROI and opportunities to drive industry connections and growth."The industry is also awaiting the completion of the $850m refurbishment of The Star area. The five-star Darling hotel has opened there, but progress on the proposed conference centre is still at the planning phase.Lewis-Smith said BESydney had secured 63 events over the past financial year, events that attracted over 48,000 delegates."We have also secured a sustainable pipeline of future bsuiness, with 120 events secured for the city and surrounds through until the end of 2018," she added, pointing out a new Visitor Economic Taskforce group would focus on business events.She identified priority sectors for Sydney and NSW to pursue events being manufacturing, professional services, ICT, cleantech and sustainability, health and medicine and international education.Lewis-Smith listed some challenges facing Sydney in the international meetings market: The ongoing repercussions of the global financial crisis Global shifts in economic power The ongoing challenge of Sydney's distance from source markets The increasingly competitive international market as destinations learn of the value of the industry to their economies Subvention funding and destinations increasingly supporting/attracting events with financial packages.Nevertheless, business travel to the country rose year-on-year to 31 August 2011 by seven per cent."There are five-star options in Sydney, but also a diversity of economical options in venues, accommodation and even in the 40 airlines international airlines that fly into Sydney over 600 times a week," said Lewis-Smith.It is this diversity of choice that has been key to maintaining a strong industry position throughout some difficult economic times. Above, main image: ready to set sail. Bottom: tourism Australia Ceo Andrew Mcevoy