Sydney still sizzles

Although Sydney is already a popular holiday and business destination, we find out what new offerings the Australian city holds for incentive groups

For starters, bring the group on a heritage walking tour around The Rocks area, led by an Aborigine, whose Dreamtime stories will contrast history with the modern, built-up cityscape.

Likewise, the iconic Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge offer more than concerts or a climb. They can literally be seen in a new light at Australia’s largest event, Vivid Sydney.

New South Wales minister for tourism and major events Adam Marshall described it as “an unmissable experience for Sydneysiders and visitors alike as our capital city is transformed into a kaleidoscope of colour”.

The three-week festival of light, music and ideas runs every May-June with spectacular, free public exhibitions of outdoor lighting sculptures, installations and grand-scale projections on iconic buildings.

But if peak-prices and large crowds (2.25 million in 2018) are a put-off, Sydney Opera House – Australia’s top attraction – runs customised events for incentive groups throughout the year.

Tours are available in seven languages, highlighting architecturally-striking venues and spaces usually off-limits to the public.

“Performance tickets, private opera recitals, curated menus from on-site caterers and even a sunrise yoga class on the Monumental Steps can also be arranged to create an unforgettable experience for incentive visitors,” said its head of sales, tours and experiences, Sarah Duthie.

Last October, Mandarin-speaking guides took a 75-member commercial real estate development group from China on a one-hour private tour of the performance venues and foyers. As the tour ended in the Concert Hall, a soprano surprised them with an opera recital beside a grand piano. They later mingled with her before taking a group photograph in front of the iconic Opera House sails.

When the function centre renovation is completed this April, premium and flexible events space will present more top-notch facilities and panoramic views of Sydney Harbour.
Another good view of Sydney Harbour is from the sea. Instead of a cruise, stage a sailing regatta! No prior sailing experience is required. Professional instructors assist in the yacht race as team members work together to steer their yachts to victory.

Cross the Bridge to Milsons Point where Luna Park Sydney delights not just with its ferris wheel, rides and superb harbour views but also event-staging options. Luna Park Venues offers 10,000m2 of indoor and outdoor spaces in up to 13 different event settings.
Crystal Palace takes 30 to 1,300 people while the Big Top holds from 500 to 3,000.

Outdoor capacity varies between 250 to 1,000 guests at Lavender Green. Sonar features live music and entertainment, and The Deck bar and brasserie hosts smaller parties. Whole-of-Park events can accommodate 8,000 people.

“It has been our goal to provide the very best catering Sydney has on offer in our harbourside venues. Team work is a massive part of what we do today; it all comes down to creating lasting experiences for people in such an iconic location,” said James Granter, general manager of sales at Luna Park Venues Sydney.

Beyond the city
Incentive planners can also organise a beach bash. Instead of the famous Bondi, head to Manly, Coogee or quiet Bronte. Enjoy a picnic, sandcastle building, beach volleyball, surfing lesson or just snap photos of surfer ‘hunks and babes’.

Alternatively, ride three hours’ north to Port Stephens. Activities include a quad-bike safari through the Stockton sand dunes, kayaking and stand-up paddle-boarding taught by accredited instructors. On a dolphin-watching buffet lunch cruise, the skipper will give a commentary on the region’s dolphins.

A day-trip to Hunter Valley can be scaled up or down for the group’s size. Besides cellar door stops, try a blind-tasting quiz or contest, short talk on wine appreciation or wine and food-pairing lunch. To placate beer guzzlers, visit a brewery. And don’t skip the cheese and chocolate shops!

In the Blue Mountains, Scenic World is a popular attraction due to its range of activities. Adventurers may take the Skyway cablecar, walk to the Three Sisters, climb down the 1,000-step Giant Stairway, walk through the temperate rainforest to the Railway bottom platform and ride back up to the main building. Shorter and easier routes are also available.

BESydney has been promoting Sydney globally for 50 years. Its CEO, Lyn Lewis-Smith, said: “We are pleased to see the growth of incentive business from our northern neighbours across Asia in recent years. We look forward to welcoming more organisations rewarding their top teams here in Sydney in 2019 – as new hotels come online, existing stock is completely refreshed, and exciting new experiences are added to ‘wow’ visitors.”

Carolin Lenehan, BESydney deputy general manager corporate affairs and communications, added that several major infrastructure projects are rapidly changing the face of the city, such as new public transport links, great walkability improvements, and the new Western Sydney Airport.

“We already have our primary airport close to the CBD. When this second airport opens in 2026, it will provide new access routes to key tourist attractions and regions to the west of Sydney as well as our emerging ‘second and third city’ precincts,” said Lenehan.

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