Fields of plenty

Sarah Goldfinch, Adelaide Convention Centre’s new general manager, is all geared up and ready to bring about a wave of unforgettable events to South Australia's thriving business events sector

Congratulations on your appointment as general manager. How do you feel about joining the Adelaide Convention Centre?
I’m thrilled to be joining the Adelaide Convention Centre team at such an exciting time for events in South Australia. It’s also an incredibly exciting time for the Centre. Following a record trading period in 2022/2023, we’re on track to deliver another outstanding result this year with 82 major national and international business events already confirmed.

We have a wonderful venue, and a fantastic team in place, and I look forward to bringing even more major events to Adelaide.

What are some of your immediate to-dos?
I’m looking forward to helping further build upon the Centre’s reputation for innovation and excellence, as well as advancing the great work it has been doing in the sustainability space.

From our food and design to our practices and people, sustainability is embedded in everything we do. Last year, we became the world’s first convention centre to achieve EarthCheck’s coveted Master certification, which represents more than 15 years of best practice in business and environmental sustainability. It’s a great achievement and one we’re incredibly proud of – but we realise there’s lots more to do in this space. To highlight our commitment to this area, we recently hired a dedicated ESG planning & project manager, and will soon be launching our first dedicated sustainability strategy.

In terms of other immediate ‘to-dos’,  we’re working to attract and bring even more international events to Adelaide. There’s lots of travel on the horizon, from AIME to IMEX and more, meeting clients, identifying new opportunities, and strengthening our partnerships. In addition to our head office in Adelaide, within the Asia-Pacific region, we also have a representative based in Singapore, who provides a wonderful resource for client engagement, as well as to share the latest from our destination and how we can help elevate the delegate experience.

Which markets are you targeting and what type of industries or sectors are you targeting to attract from those markets?
Our focus is very much on attracting more international business, which is supported by increased international airlift, including direct international flights offered by major carriers Singapore Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Qatar Airways and Air New Zealand just to name a few. Emirates recently announced their highly anticipated return to Adelaide with a daily service connecting our city to Dubai in October, which offers additional options for travelling delegates.

Key markets we are targeting for international associations business include Europe and the US, along with associations across the Asia-Pacific.

In terms of industry, our team works to proactively identify and target conferences that align with South Australia’s priority sectors – ranging from energy and mining to health and medical – and have potential links to Adelaide’s innovation neighbourhoods as a way of assisting associations to enhance their conference programmes. Adelaide has witnessed an investment explosion in innovation and infrastructure across a broad range of industries, enabling clients to leverage Adelaide Convention Centre’s extensive local networks to provide market-leading delegate experiences.

What are some of the challenges you foresee over the next six months?
Like other industries, the business events industry continues to feel the impacts of labour and people challenges. Ensuring we have all the best people in place has required a significant effort in terms of recruitment and staff development.

However, through our proactive work and valuable partnerships, we’re pleased to report that the Centre is currently employing its highest level of staff since 2020. Our staffing levels have been bolstered by the support of international students, with great support from StudyAdelaide’s Job Shop programme, which enables students to apply for meaningful employment before arriving in Australia. We’re also continuing to streamline processes to assist staff during peak times and are investing in ongoing staff training and development to equip our team with the necessary skills required as business demands increase.

Please also share more about the Centre’s plans for the next few years.
Looking at the forward pipeline, the positive momentum experienced over the past 12 months is set to continue in the year ahead with 82 major national and international business events already confirmed at Adelaide Convention Centre, many of which closely align with South Australia’s key industries and priority sectors.

Collectively, these events are forecast to bring more than 41,000 national and international visitors to Adelaide, generating more than 196,000 bed nights for local hotels and injecting more than A$190 million (US$124.5 million) in economic benefit into the South Australian visitor economy.

Key highlights include the World Potato Congress, June 23-26, 2024 with 800 delegates; Asia Pacific Stroke Conference, September 25-28, 2024 with 900 delegates; and 30th International Applied Geochemistry Symposium, October 14-18, 2024 with 250 delegates.

What are some of the business events trends you see in the market now and how is the Centre planning to tap into those trends?
Clients are increasingly becoming more conscious about creatively and responsibly incorporating technology, sustainability, wellness and connection to country into their conference and event programmes. Re-imagining event design is another key trend impacting the broader events industry that certainly extends to our Adelaide experience and is one we’re also working to address through our technology offerings in particular.

What do you envision Asia-Pacific’s business events industry will look like in 2024, and how does Australia play into this?
Based on our experience, there is a very bright outlook for the business events industry in 2024. Australia is well positioned to support the growth of Asia-Pacific Associations across our region, and Adelaide Convention Centre is well-equipped to play a pivotal role in helping strengthen those partnerships.

There is no question that the appetite for face-to-face events is at an all-time high, which is great for business. Throughout the pandemic, we saw the rise of virtual and hybrid events. While hybrid formats certainly help extend reach to offsite delegates, the overwhelming demand is that delegates are keen to meet in person. For venues like ours, this places increased focus on elements such as personalisation and hospitality in elevating the delegate experience, something that is done well here in Australia, and will certainly be a continuing key focus for our team at the Adelaide Convention Centre.

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