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Winter wonderland

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Tasmania is one of the few destinations that can claim winter is the best time to visit, with the island turning on its pagan charm as the mercury drops, writes Sheridan Randall.

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winter-wonderland-3Last year, the number of business events visitors to Tasmania set a new record, with more than 40,000 visitors heading to the island state in the 12 months to December 2015 – a 42 per cent increase on the previous year.

So why the sudden surge? Well Tassie has been savouring the benefits of what is commonly dubbed the “MONA effect” – the huge interest generated by the opening of David Walsh’s Museum of Old and New Art a few years back. But that sort of hype rarely last’s more than 12 months, so there is more to the story. The fact is Tasmania has been increasingly a magnet for domestic and international conferences who want to experience a destination that is visibly pulsating with the sort of cultural shift that happens every half century.

September last year, Hobart hosted what was arguably the biggest corporate event to ever be held in Tasmania, with over 1200 delegates and their partners attending the 2015 Baker’s Delight National Conference. This was in addition to the Society of Economic Geologists International Conference 2015 and the 2015 Population Health Conference. That is has the capacity to handle large events of more than 1000 delegates is a message Tasmania is keen to get out.

“This is a great result for the Tasmanian business event sector,” says Stuart Nettlefold, CEO of Business Events Tasmania (BET). “Tasmania has become a hotspot destination for business events and conferences, and its attractiveness is continually growing.”
It is isn’t just Hobart either, with Launceston this year hosting the Australasian Society for Infectious Diseases Annual Scientific Meeting 2016, attracting 388 delegates who attended the 40th anniversary conference at the Hotel Grand Chancellor Launceston. The meeting included a special focus on healthcare infection control and paediatric infectious diseases, with international speakers from UK and USA, with the event including an off-site gala dinner at Albert Hall and a public lecture on Superbugs: The Global Antibiotic Crisis, Resistant ‘Superbugs’ and Community Action.

Marine science is strong sector for Hobart, which recently held the Fourth Symposium on the Ocean in a High CO2 World 2016, which attracted some 500 marine scientists from around the world for the four-day event held at the Hotel Grand Chancellor Hobart. Held every four years, this was the first time the conference was held in the Southern Hemisphere.

Part of the success in bringing these types of conference to Tasmania rests with BET’s ambassadors, a group of industry leaders who are passionate about profiling Tasmania as a leading business event destination to the world. The ambassadors represent Tasmania’s key industry sectors including food and agribusiness, information, communication and technology, science research, Antarctic and Southern Ocean and international education.

winter-wonderland-2“Business events are an important driver of the Tasmanian economy and working with ambassadors allows us to target conferences that are going to strategically enhance our national and international reputation and showcase our strengths in Tasmania’s key industry sectors and research institutes” says Nettlefold.
“This program gives us the opportunity for fostering innovation, attracting trade, investment and global talent.”

Another key ingredient in Tasmania’s future success is news that Hobart Airport’s runway extension has been given the go ahead paving the way for direct international flights into Hobart from the Asia-Pacific region. This complements Qantas’ new business friendly flight schedule from Hobart to Sydney and Melbourne, with the carrier adding an additional 11 flights to and from Hobart each week travelling on the airline’s two-class Boeing 717 jet aircraft, which will increase Tasmania’s momentum to attract mid- to large-sized national and international conferences, up to 1100 delegates, to the state.

“We have increased our flights from 35 to 46 return services per week and timed them to provide more flight options throughout the day for business customers and tourists alike,” says Stephen Farquer, Qantas regional manager for Tasmania.

“It will also provide better connection times for customers travelling to Qantas’ international destinations, including Shanghai, Los Angeles, Tokyo and Johannesburg.”

Ultimately though, Tassie’s appeal lies in the depth of experiences available for delegates combined with the range of accommodation and venues, which is expanding rapidly
with numerous new hotels, meeting spaces, attractions and restaurants either opening or in the pipeline. The only thing missing on the horizon is a dedicated new convention centre, but that is a story for later. In the meantime, organisers can make the most of the fantastic venues on offer that are perfectly capable of delivering on a grand scale.

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