The picture-perfect Whitsunday Islands have experienced a 30.6 per cent increase in domestic overnight visitors this year. But it’s not just tourists heading to the North Queensland gem; business events and incentive groups frequent the island year round. “With 74 beautiful islands, stunning beaches, protected rainforest, easy access and world class infrastructure, the Whitsundays has become a favourite venue within the business events sector,” says Tourism Whitsundays events specialist Lorelei van Dalen.
“The Whitsundays continues to attract a large number of business events, due to its diverse range of event venues. “This sort of activity is undoubtedly influencing our domestic visitor numbers, which continue to increase year on year.”
With visitor numbers increasing, airlines are adding capacity to keep up with the influx. Low-cost airline Tigerair Australia recently announced it will commence four weekly return services between Brisbane and the Whitsunday Coast from March 2017.
The new route joins existing Tigerair services from Sydney, Jetstar services from Brisbane and Melbourne and Virgin Australia flights from Brisbane. From there, visitors can head to one of the many destinations within the Whitsundays, including Hamilton Island, Daydream Island, Hayman Island and Airlie Beach.
Among the hotels and resorts at each of the islands, there is a range of conference and meeting facilities to cater for groups of up to about 300. The Hamilton Island Conference Centre is the largest facility in the region, with the ability to cater for up to 1000 delegates.
“Having such a large Centre in the middle of the Whitsundays allows larger groups to travel to such an extraordinary destination rather than a typical city based convention centre,” says Hamilton Island general manager, hotels and resorts, Matt Boileau.
He says the Centre’s ideal location alongside the Great Barrier Reef helps to draw groups away from big city venues. “It’s a perfect location to gather and organise group movement and content without the professional distractions that capital cities can cause,” he says. Choosing a tropical venue like the Whitsundays doesn’t mean event planners have to compromise on high quality technology, says Boileau.
The Centre’s in-house audio visual company AVPartners recently acquired a 12.5m wide blend screen, allowing more projection techniques and light effects to be integrated into events. “The resolution is high definition, meaning images and videos are crisp, further enhancing the overall quality of the event,” says Boileau.
“The Centre has also undergone some recent aesthetic improvements to provide a more modern sense of clean lines and a light, bright feel. “We have improved the back of house catering areas to better cater for the large onsite and offsite events all over the island.” Looking to the future, the Whitsundays is set to welcome several major business events to the region.
“An annual Housing Industry Association event, of 500 delegates and 630 gala dinner guests, has been booked in for its second year at Hamilton Island due to the ‘great experience and service provided’ at this year’s event,” says van Dalen.
“And on the mainland, Coral Sea Resort will host a medical conference for approximately 100 delegates in November.” As for the Hamilton Island Conference Centre, it’s already seeing a record number of events being locked in for 2017 and the average size of events is increasing. “Every year we look forward to our annual Audi Hamilton Island Race Week Presentation Dinner that caters for a full house of 700 people,” Boileau says.