New regional areas in Melbourne ready for Asian incentives

Swim with dolphins in Bellarine Peninsula on a tour with Sea All Dolphin Swims

Untapped regional areas in Melbourne are fast emerging as new destinations poised for Asia’s incentives market, which is “growing dramatically” for the city that recently reported a financially record-breaking year.

With the Great Ocean Road and Phillip Island on the south-east of Melbourne now regarded as mature markets, the south-west side of Geelong and Bellarine Peninsula have improved their offerings and begun investing in growing market awareness from Asia.

“There’s definitely been a massive increase (of South-east Asian business visitors) within Melbourne CBD and that’s where we work very closely with Melbourne Convention Bureau (MCB) to leverage off them for those satellite or day trips,” said convention bureau manager for Geelong, Mark Day.

In the last financial year MCB secured 132 incentive reward programs, out of which 87 per cent were from South-east Asia and China. Day himself notes that his destination has seen international visitors surge 11 per cent over the last financial year, 14 per cent of which come from South-east Asia. Chinese visitors topped the list of all international tourists at 17 per cent while Singaporeans showed greatest growth at four per cent.

“That’s part of the reason why we’re investing more dollars into those markets,” said Day. “(Compared to) the Great Ocean Road, Geelong and the Bellarine have not been very proactive in trying to attract that top market, (but) with these growing numbers and new products coming online, it’s something that we’re definitely working harder to get more of.”

Apart from new gastronomic offerings, the region is set to welcome more hotels early next year, including luxury accommodation connected to golf clubs, a A$38.5 million (US$26.3 million) redevelopment of the Geelong Arts Centre, and large-scale public moving artwork using LED technology. Small group tours and hot air ballooning have also launched recently.

On the bureau’s part, Business Events Geelong hosted Melbourne’s first region-led fam programme for Asian agents last week. It has also developed its own incentive guide to work with MCB’s channels, launched its own WeChat account, and a China-ready website. It has also been mentoring operators to develop cultural awareness for international markets.

“We have only just become international-ready,” James Murphy, owner of Sea All Dolphin Swims – which offers surfing lessons and swim-with-dolphins experiences on the Bellarine Peninsula – told TTGmice.

“However, we hope to start supplying experiences for the current travel season. The Asian incentive market is a key market segment for the Victorian tourism industry and I see it being a key driver of growth (for our business) in the coming years,” he continued, also noting that the increase in visitor numbers could partly be attributed to the international upgrade at Avalon Airport.

The Geelong-Bellarine Peninsula development is consistent with wider trends to improve business events offerings beyond Melbourne city. MCB’s CEO Julia Swanson shared: “We’re seeing interest from our groups business, is (them) really getting off the beaten track.

“There’s a huge drive to increase food and wine offerings across regional Victoria (with) around 60 restaurants, bars and cafes opening or due to open at the back end of 2019. In addition to a Ritz Hotel and Holiday Inn (opening) in Geelong soon, a new Geelong Convention Center is also in the planning.”

MCB reported its highest ever economic result in FY 2018/19 with a 28 per cent increase in economic contribution from secured business events, achieving A$507 million from 229 secured events for the state. Swanson credited a significant part of that growth to the Asian corporate incentives sector.

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