Sydney remains optimistic as convention centre closure looms

A WAVE of new business decisions is sweeping through Sydney’s MICE landscape as the closure of the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre looms closer, with some major events looking to relocate elsewhere.

With less than 11 months until the centre closes its doors, a number of business event organisers have announced plans to relocate their shows until the future Darling Harbour precinct (TTGmice e-Weekly, December 12, 2012) opens at the end of 2016.

The future of CeBIT Australia, a massive annual international IT trade fair, is still uncertain. The government has vowed to find an alternative location, although identifying one large enough to accommodate CeBIT’s 32,000-plus visitors and 500 exhibitors will be a problem.

Several trade sources believe that the G20 summit in November 2014 was awarded to Brisbane due to a lack of facilities in Sydney, while other events including The Australian Fitness & Health Expo will relocate to Melbourne until the new Sydney facilities open; Vforum organisers are also looking at interstate alternatives.

However, general business sentiments are still positive. A number of events, including the 2014 Rotary International Convention and the Australian International Motor Show, have confirmed staying in Sydney and will shift to alternative venues such as Sydney Olympic Park, Moore Park, the Australian Technology Park at Eveleigh and the interim exhibition facility on Glebe Island (TTGmice e-Weekly, September 27, 2012).

Hoteliers are expecting business as usual over the three-year closure of the convention centre. In fact, some are predicting increased occupancy as they look to host some of the smaller relocated events.

“We are already receiving a large number of enquiries for meetings and events at Sydney Olympic Park, which offers the city’s largest collection of conference spaces. Our hotels with large-scale meeting facilities are also receiving record forward bookings for 2014. So while there will be a temporary disruption and some relocation to other states, Sydney is more than likely going to see a displacement of events to other areas of the city,” said Peter Hook, general manager communications for Accor, which has 42 hotels across Sydney.

Hook added: “We also have several hotels that are upgrading their meeting facilities in preparation for the (convention centre’s) closure, with Pullman Sydney Hyde Park and the Sebel Pier One Hotel spending millions to renovate their meeting facilities to attract event business.”

Despite the size of the future Darling Harbour precinct, MICE operators suggested it would not be large enough to cater to increased inbound conference demand, which Tourism Australia estimates to be worth AU$16 billion (US$16.4 billion) by 2020, up from AU8.5 billion in 2011.

By Natasha Dragun


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