Published: January 04, 2016

TRANSFORMING the city of Adelaide in to an events epicentre has been a 41-year journey for the Adelaide Convention Bureau.

The organisation posted a record year in 2014/15 including winning the right to host more than 3000 delegates from around the world at the 68th International Astronautical Congress in 2017.

It was among 119 future events secured during 2014/15 valued at $150.6m.

Convention_Capital.jpgAdelaide Convention Bureau CEO Damien Kitto said the IAC would be the largest international event of its kind ever held in South Australia and would inject $18 million into the state economy.

He said winning large global conferences was a complicated process which took up to a decade and included forming a host bid committee, gaining the support of local, internationally respected industry leaders and winning the Australian bidding rights.

“Then it was a process of exhibiting two years out before the decision was made to promote the bid, promote the Australian aeronautical industry and lobby the decision makers,” Kitto said.

“More often than not with these bigger events you don’t win it first time round, it becomes a learning process … then hopefully you win it second time round.”

Founded by industry in partnership with City of Adelaide in 1974 as the peak industry body to promote and secure events, the establishment of the Adelaide Convention Bureau was also viewed as a key driver of investment in the meeting, hospitality and services sector in the City of Adelaide.   

The bureau arrived as a serious player in the events market in 1987 following the completion of the Adelaide Convention Centre – the first purpose-built centre of its kind in Australia.

The convention centre is now undergoing a massive extension. Its first stage opened in March while the second stage will be completed in mid-2017, in time for the IAC in September, and will replace the original Plenary Building with a multi-purpose, state-of-the-art facility with plenary capacity of up to 3,500 seats.

According to Patrick Robinson from Invest Adelaide, the city’s reputation as a top global convention destination for large-scale business events is being safeguarded through continued investment in local convention infrastructure.

“The Convention Centre expansion does just that, and confirms Adelaide’s status as one the world’s leading convention locations,” Robinson said.

The South Australian Government has also this year announced a $5 million bid fund for use with strategic bids to assist in attracting significant conventions to Adelaide and specifically to the Adelaide Convention Centre.

The importance of the events and meetings industry in attracting investment is clearly evidenced in several new city hotels scheduled to open in the next three years, adding about 1400 rooms to Adelaide’s accommodation market.

Kitto said about half of Adelaide’s major conferences were related to science, particularly medical science thanks largely to the convention centre being next door to the largest biomedical hub in the southern hemisphere.

 “With the extension to the convention centre we are now able to bid for larger conferences,” Kitto said.

“To have the commercial support from government and to have a large convention centre of absolute world-class quality and to have a compact convenient city we are delivering very good outcomes.

“The results are at their highest point but there’s still significant work needs to take place. With the extra accommodation supply coming on board, we’ve still got the great job ahead to drive demand so it ultimately goes close to matching supply.

“The opportunity is absolutely huge to win more business.

“Adelaide has always done very well in attracting not only national but international association events. We are an affordable destination with excellent city infrastructure so when an event comes to town, the convenience and accessibility and high quality of products and services are second to none.”

South Australia, and especially Adelaide, was named as the best Event State in Australia at the Australian Event Awards in November 2015.

Kitto said the South Australian capital had an international airport close to the central business district, many accommodation choices within walking distance of the convention centre and great pre and post touring opportunities for visitors.

“We’ve got McLaren Vale, the Adelaide Hills, the Barossa Valley and these amazingly different unique destinations such as Kangaroo Island, Port Lincoln and the Flinders Ranges. Our food and wine offering is incredible, and we know they rate very highly in Australia and globally.

“When you wrap all that together it is an exceptional package.”

Adelaide also hosted 120 global buyers and media from around the world at Dreamtime 2015 in December.

Tourism Australia Managing Director John O’Sullivan said Dreamtime was integral to Australia’s broader Tourism 2020 industry targets to grow the business events sector to $16 billion annually by the end of the decade.

“Dreamtime is Australia's largest business events showcase, which allows us to connect with qualified buyers from key markets including Greater China, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, India, New Zealand, USA and the United Kingdom,” O’Sullivan said.

“We believe Adelaide and South Australia provide the perfect gateway for our key international buyers to experience a fantastic array of experiences and destinations on offer in Australia – and it’s an ideal time for the city to showcase its new developments.”

The success of the Adelaide Convention Bureau significantly benefits City business across a number of related industry sectors driving economic growth and fostering investment attraction as an integral part of Invest Adelaide