Hobart is often referred to as “boutique” destination, known for its vast wilderness, historical and cultural influence, and its strong food and wine scene.
And while that reputation has brought in more and more visitors over recent years, Hobart has set out to show the country, and the world, that it is a lot more than that.
Business Events Tasmania CEO Stuart Nettlefold says the state is working on breaking down the perception that Hobart can only hold small conferences.
“The truth is we can host those larger conferences, of up to 1100 delegates,” he says.
“What we know is that when we get those conferences into the city, we cater for them very well, and that’s the feedback we get back from our clients.”
Nettlefold says the position and size of the city is what sets it apart from other Australian capital cities.
“We’re a very compact city, surrounded by the beautiful Derwent River and Mount Wellington and we offer a lot of activities that can be centred around those two wonderful parts of nature. But importantly our city is very walkable, so delegates can easily walk from venue to hotel,” he says.
“That’s where we differentiate from the bigger capital cities, often in those cities you have to travel quite a way to get to those experiences.”
Hotel Grand Chancellor Hobart general manager Ralph Freckelton agrees, saying the close proximity of conference venues, hotels, experiences and restaurants makes Hobart an easy choice for planners looking for a “user-friendly conference experience”.
“One of the main attractions for events looking at coming to Hobart is the ability to take ownership of the destination,” he says.
“The compact nature of Hobart’s waterfront precinct and CBD allows delegates the chance to get to know and become part of the city.”
Freckelton says the city continues to attract large numbers of association conferences.
“There is no doubt that Hobart has arrived as a destination of choice for association conferences,” he says.
“The ability for delegates to connect and recharge whilst still enjoying a destination is a rare treat with today’s busy conference schedules.”
Located within the hotel, the Hobart Convention and Exhibition Centre can comfortably host up to 1100 delegates, which is a message that it continues to push.
“Hobart is seen as a very boutique, wilderness-style destination. If you ask anybody around Australia that would be what Hobart and Tasmania is known for,” says Freckelton.
“There’s a link that’s not there when they think about Hobart as a destination and large conferencing. People choose the destination because it’s
so unique, it has history and wilderness aspects, but the flipside to that is that we’ve got all of the technology and all of the capability to host the larger events.”
Hobart is in the midst of a major development period, with a number of hotels in the pipeline and under construction.
Construction is underway on a 278-room Crowne Plaza hotel, that will have conference and meeting facilities, meanwhile AccorHotels is bringing its ibis Styles brand to the city later this year.
RACV Hobart Apartment Hotel recently unveiled a new look following a $10.6 million upgrade. A new lounge, restaurant and boardroom was created, allowing the hotel to now cater for groups of up to 210 delegates.
Hyatt Hotels’ new lifestyle brand is also heading to the city, with Hyatt Centric Hobart set to open in early 2019. The 221-room hotel will be the first Hyatt Centric hotel in Australia, and will include a restaurant, bar and meeting facilities. Marriott International has announced it will open The Tasman, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Hobart in 2018, a 128-room hotel that will reside in repurposed heritage buildings in Parliament Square.
But one upcoming hotel in particular is creating quite a buzz around town. Located on Hobart’s waterfront, MACq 01 is the latest property by The Federal Group, who also operate sister property Henry Jones Art Hotel.
Slated to open this June, MACq 01 will feature 114 rooms, each designed to tell the story of a prominent Tasmanian character.
General manager Jake Smith says the hotel will attract guests looking for an experience-based stay.
“We’re very much all about celebrating the Tasmanian character, so the design of the hotel has been geared to celebrating Tasmania, our culture and our people, to allow our guests to have a really true understanding about who we are,” he says.
“Our characters, the people we are celebrating, are a vast variety of people. We’ve got indigenous characters, early settlers, pioneers, we’ve got artists and creative types, right through to people living today.”
Each room will be designed with one of these character as the inspiration, and their stories will be told throughout the rooms and the hotel.
“I think it’s a real privilege and responsibility for us to tell these stories, and I’m really excited to be able to do so,” says Smith.
MACq 01 will also support the conferences and events held at Henry Jones Art Hotel, which is located just 100 metres away.
“As Henry Jones has a very high annual occupancy we’ll be able to support additional room nights for delegates going to conferences in the hotel,” says Smith.
Hobart has a number of major events in the pipeline for this year, including the 2017 Australian International Education Conference that will see 1200 delegates converge on the city; the Oceania Tobacco Control Conference 2017 that will bring in 800 delegates; as well as the 1000-delegate International Congress on Modelling and Simulation. Each of these major conferences will be held at the Hobart Convention and Exhibition Centre.
Hobart recently won the bid to host two major Antarctic meetings in 2020: the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research Delegates’ Meeting and Open Science Conference, and the Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programs AGM. Over two weeks, the meetings are expected to generate more than $6.4 million to the state economy, bringing in more than 850 delegates.
As the region continues to attract large events, Nettlefold says the Hobart brand is strong.
“We’re seeing Hobart really create its own strong brand in terms of what we’re doing in the business events space and we’re seeing ongoing growing interest,” he says.
“These larger 1000 pax conferences are good to attract to the destination for a whole lot of reasons. We work continually to promote the fact that we can host that type of conference, and certainly we’re focussed on breaking down that perception gap.”