How have things changed since you first joined ACC?
The vision for an expanded, cutting-edge, highly transformable convention centre was already well in place when I joined the team in 2012; our $397 million redevelopment was a nine-year journey, with six years of construction. I was brought on to drive business development during the expansion to match the new capacities. Given conference lead times, we have been selling the West and East buildings for a number of years now and I’m pleased to report that we’re already operating at increased business levels.
The $5 billion rejuvenation of the Adelaide Riverbank Precinct was also underway when I arrived in Adelaide. Significant investment along the Riverbank Precinct has certainly heightened the city’s destination appeal. From the Centre’s perspective, BioMed City has been a particularly exciting development. While it was still under construction when I joined the Centre – and is certainly continuing to evolve – we recognised the benefit early on of having the world’s largest health and life sciences precinct on our doorstep, with its ready supply of speakers and delegates along with great tour opportunities. It is a tremendous asset and something we’ve been leveraging for a number of years.
There continues to be a lot of activity along the Riverbank and 2020 will be another key year for the Precinct with the completion of the Festival Plaza works, SKYCITY Casino’s $330 million redevelopment, and SAHMRI II, featuring the only proton therapy unit in the Southern Hemisphere.
International Astronautical Congress (IAC) 2017 was a great way to kick off the new centre – what did you learn from that you can take with you for your new role as general manager?
IAC 2017 was a fantastic showcase of our new facilities. As the first major event held in our newly expanded venue, it was always going to be a great test to our venue and our team, but we rose to the challenge and feedback from clients and delegates alike has been incredibly positive. The event’s success can be further measured by its countless lasting legacies, the highlight of which was the Federal Government’s announcement that it plans to establish a national space agency. In addition, numerous agreements were signed throughout the week that represent major development opportunities for companies based in South Australia.
As Adelaide’s largest ever business event, IAC was not only a great experience for our team, but had a huge impact on the wider community. It was a fantastic illustration of our Adelaide’s strong, city-wide collaboration – the ‘Team Adelaide’ approach for which we are known. From the moment guests arrived they were greeted with welcome signage at the airport, with additional street banners displayed throughout the City. Space-themed exhibitions and lectures were held at the State Library and Museum for public engagement.
IAC demonstrated not only that Adelaide now has the capacity and expertise to host prestigious, complex, large scale events, but was a terrific illustration of how Adelaide as a destination offers an intimate conference experience for groups of all sizes.
Tell us about the Skyway?
The Skyway is an elevated walkway that connects our East and West Buildings at an upper level. A lot of thought went in to the Centre’s design – we wanted to ensure that whatever their movement through the venue, delegates remained connected to the outside world. The Skyway provides fantastic views of the Riverbank to deliver a great sense of destination.
From a purely practical perspective, the Skyway also allows us to also segregate our venue via level (lower, ground and upper) to build a collaborative atmosphere, as well as assists with delegate movement through the Centre.
Beyond the Riverside precinct what are the developments that excite you?
In addition to an intense focus on the medical industry, Adelaide enjoys a strong reputation for innovation and discovery, and excels in the fields of technology, education, agriculture and defence. Tonsley, Adelaide’s leading international innovation hub, is dedicated to hi-tech manufacturing and R&D.
TechinSA in Thebarton is another recent development, which features numerous hi-tech companies and is one of the largest incubation clusters of its type in Australia.
Lastly, there’s ongoing discussion about a potential ‘Knowledge and Innovation’ quarter on the site of the former Royal Adelaide Hospital, which sits at the East End of the City. While plans for this area are yet to be finalised, it is a key area of the CBD that is earmarked for some additional exciting development.
What are the next big international conferences booked?
The response to the expanded Convention Centre continues to be extremely positive with 141 major conferences already confirmed at the ACC through until the end of 2020. Collectively, these will bring some 104,000 delegates to the City and deliver more than $287 million in economic benefit to the State.
This year is without question our showcase year. On the back of launching our new facilities, we’re delighted to welcome a number of prestigious industry conferences and other events in the coming months to experience our newly expanded venue – many of which would not have been possible without our expanded facilities. Highlights include The Australian Tourism Exchange (2500 delegates); Accelerate 2018 Meetings & Events Australia (MEA) National Conference (500 delegates); AuSAE Conference and Exhibition (ACE) 2018 – Ignite Your Thinking (500 delegates); 38th Australian Dental Congress (3000 delegates); APPEA (Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association) Conference & Exhibition (2000 delegates); and Land Forces Conference & Exhibition (5500 delegates).
What is on the horizon for South Australia?
South Australia is certainly in the process of transforming as a state and putting lots of energy into new industries and opportunities. From our perspective, this has certainly helped in targeting new conferences. We’re always looking for ways to work closely with our partners here in South Australia and are very proud to support small incubator events in our state’s key growth industries, including biomed, technology, education, agriculture and defence.