The decision by the organisers of the Perfect China mega incentive to increase their initial group size from 200 to 3000 after a site visit to Adelaide was perhaps the ‘aha’ moment when the city knew that things were never going to be the same. And surprisingly it wasn’t the wine that was the kicker, as they didn’t want wineries on the itinerary.
“At the clients request we weren’t able to showcase our wineries which enabled us to highlight our fresh food, our wildlife encounters within close proximity to the city, and unique experiences in the Adelaide Hills and along our pristine coastline,” says Adelaide Convention Bureau CEO Damien Kitto.
“It certainly challenged the destination’s internal perception of what we have to offer. Taking out the jewel in Adelaide’s crown forced us to highlight other elements that might not typically get the spotlight they deserve. When you step back and consider our non-wine attractions including long white sandy beaches 20 minutes from the city, an amazing food basket in the Adelaide Hills or natural wildlife experiences such as cuddling a koala (South Australia is one of just seven places globally offering this activity), you are able to easily produce a high quality and diverse incentive program.
“We’ve seen time and again that Adelaide tends to delight and surprise once people visit it and see the changes that have occurred here recently, and this site inspection was further evidence of this.”
The strategy to go after the larger international incentive groups was kickstarted when Adelaide hosted Dreamtime in 2015.
“It was the beginning of a long-term investment into Asia which included
local stakeholders undertaking their own preparations for incentives as well as the Bureau’s plans to attract small to large groups,” says Kitto. “We were pleasantly surprised that we were able to attract such a large, high quality group like Perfect China to Adelaide so quickly, but our goal now is to ensure the event is as seamless as possible so other opportunities can witness how well Adelaide can cater for large incentive groups.”
While the city and its surrounds is preparing to roll-out the welcome carpet for the eager Perfect China delegates, the Adelaide Convention Centre has been busy putting the finishing touches the final stage of its $400 million redevelopment in preparation of hosting more than 3000 delegates for the 68th International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in September.
The redevelopment of the building’s East Wing marks an important milestone for the Centre, which as Australia’s first purpose built convention centre, will soon be reborn as Australia’s newest when it opens its doors in late August.
Currently work has turned to completing the interior fitout, while finishing touches are also being made to the Centre’s new Skyway, an elevated walkway that brings together the Centre’s three buildings – East, Central and West. The architecturally innovative Skyway not only provides a seamless link between the buildings, but also serves to maximise the panoramic views.
The expanded Centre sits at the heart of Adelaide’s revitalised Riverbank precinct which is undergoing a multi-billion dollar transformation to bring greater activity and energy to the banks of the River Torrens. Beyond the expanded Convention Centre, the Riverbank precinct redevelopment includes a new hospital, world-leading medical and health research centres, the successfully redeveloped Adelaide Oval, and shortly, a redeveloped Festival Centre.
To further add to the vibrancy of the precinct, the Adelaide Convention Centre recently announced the development of a new café, bar and restaurant destination on the Riverbank boardwalk, directly below the new East Building. Titled Home Ground, it will incorporate five outlets, and become a showcase for a range of quintessentially South Australian food and wine experiences and is slated to open in late 2017.
For conference organisers, the Centre will now not only be able to host much bigger events across the seamlessly integrated three buildings, but also host a number of smaller conferences and events simultaneously. The East Building will be able to be subdivided and configured within minutes as pre-function space, ballroom, exhibition or plenary. Each meeting room will be serviced by individual lighting and audio systems.
“New technologies are the hallmark of the $400 million expansion which will set a new benchmark in convention centre design and functionality,” says Adelaide Convention Centre chief executive Alec Gilbert.
“The delegate experience at the Centre is also more personal than many other convention centres, and being part of a relatively compact and highly accessible city makes the delegate experience more relaxed and enjoyable.”
That compactness was one of the factors that led to Adelaide winning the bid to host IAC, according to Anne-Marie Quinn, the managing director of All Occasions Group, which is tasked with managing the event.
“One of Adelaide’s selling points was the affordability of the accommodation and the compact nature of the city,” she says. “When we talk about Adelaide’s key strengths beyond the redevelopment of the Adelaide Convention Centre and Riverbank precinct, the whole walking distance thing is true.
Delegates staying on North Terrace can walk over to the Convention Centre and then to the gala dinner at Adelaide Oval and back again. It’s safe, it’s quick and it’s easy.”
It took two attempts by the Adelaide Convention Bureau to secure the event, eventually winning out over Orlando, Istanbul, Bremen and Dublin. It was then a 12 month process to select the event manager.
“I was shocked, astounded and amazed when we were first selected as we weren’t the bidding partner up front,” she says. “We came in as a dark horse so to speak, but we are lock stock and barrel South Australian so it is great they made that call.”
The convention is a real litmus test for Adelaide’s ability to manage large complex events. IAC is being held over five days, with a raft of associated events and partners also running simultaneous events off the back of it.
“Not only are we managing a complex congress with 20 simultaneous streams, we are running these other parallel meetings,” she says. “Then there are multiple billing points with different clients. In addition there are outreach and side events, like young professional networking events, educator workshops and many others. Also, it being an international convention means there are multiple languages to deal with.”
All Occasions Group is expanding the team as the event gets closer including 200-plus volunteers onsite to help out and direct attendees. Quinn describes bagging the event as a feather in the company’s cap.
“It helps in terms of our reputation and profile and credibility to be able to pull this one off,” she says. “It ratchets up our profile and pushes us up into that next bracket of conference organiser. It’s opened doors for me and it’s been very exciting to be part of it. I have been doing this a long time, 18 years or so, so to come up to a crescendo with this kind of event, I guess we are riding the wave of the new developments here in Adelaide.”
And with the way things are falling into place, many other stakeholders will be riding this wave of investment for many years to come.