My second trip to Sydney ever saw me constantly in awe. If the last time I was there, a few years back, I was amazed like any visitor would be because it was, after all, Sydney, the Australian city par excellence, I was this time taken aback everywhere my head turned, but in a good way. The face of the largest city in Australia is changing, primarily thanks to the effort and the good will of the New South Wales Government. This will definitely benefit Sydney as a convention city.
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Driving and walking around Sydney - especially around the CBD and the famous Darling Harbour - you immediately notice them. Big cranes and construction sites are everywhere to be seen: Sydney is a city on the move, the feeling is tangible. With the fastest-growing economy in Australia, huge investments both in terms of transportation (a second airport is in the pipeline) and infrastructure (a brand-new International Convention Centre Sydney will open late 2016), the city is set to put its feets on the international meetings map even firmer. As a leader in the Asia-Pacific region, it also combines business and leisure like no other.
Maths quickly done
Tim Williams, CEO of Committee for Sydney, an independent think tank and champion for Sydney providing thought leadership, puts it like this: ‘Sydney is at the heart of Australia’s economy, leading the nation in a range of industry sectors including professional services, research and education, the visitor economy, and creative industries. Both a global city and the gateaway to the Asia-Pacific, it’s Australia’s finance and business hub, and constantly ranks high in terms of intellectual capital of innovation. Add to this a quality of life many would not dare to even dream about, and the maths is quickly done.’
Starting in Barangaroo, a former container port that is being transformed into a waterfront extraordinaire, to Darling Harbour all the way to the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) precinct, the unofficially named Western corridor which is opening up the city is on everyone’s lips. That’s where things happen, where new venues will open, like the Frank Gehry designed Dr Chau Chak Wing Building which I was lucky enough to visit - scheduled for completion end of this year, it will be able to accommodate small events of up to 240 people.
As such, UTS will also benefit from this major redevelopment. A member of BESydney’s Ambassador Programme, Pr. Roy Green, Dean of the UTS Business School, explains: ‘Sydney is reinventing itself as a global city, where entrepreneurial spirit is kicking and alive. As a creative, innovative hub, the city boasts all the tools for people to shape their own destiny. That’s where UTS comes in handy, I like to think: we give students the opportunity to become their own master.’
Together for a renewed city
In Sydney, everybody works together, and the epitome of this may well be found in the local suppliers of the meetings industry. It is three years since the election of a New South Wales Government with a massive mandate for change, and, with key initiatives being promoted in transport, planning, urban renewal, governance and attracting global talent, the local meetings industry plays a big part as a driver of Sydney’s economy.
All the people I met insisted on the unified effort made by the city as a whole to attract more events and conventions to Sydney. Lyn Lewis-Smith, CEO of BESydney, said: ‘With many redevelopments and revitalisation projects underway, Sydney is undoubtedly changing. This is a great time to maximise the benefits for the city’s business event offering, and we all work hand in hand to put Sydney on the map. There is an understanding that the more united we stay, the stronger we are. And we at BESydney have the expertise, connections and leadership to continue delivering great results for the harbour city.’
With such a commitment to success, it comes as no surprise more and more international associations are choosing Sydney for their events. Geoff Donaghey even told me they have already secured the first ‘Lucky 30’ conventions even if ICC Sydney hasn’t opened yet. I’m sure there will be even better news to come soon.
ICC Sydney: What to expect
The brand-new ICC Sydney will be located where the old convention centre once was, on Darling Harbour, with over 3,300 hotel rooms in the immediate precinct, all at walking distance. As a fully-integrated convention, exhibition and entertainment complex, it will feature an open, contemporary design, leading technology throughout and flexible meeting spaces to cater for the changing architecture of meetings, as well as the largest exhibition space in Australia!
Geoff Donaghy, CEO of ICC Sydney, cannot be stopped when talking about the venue: ‘As part of AEG Ogden, we have a lot of expertise in the hosting of international events. The new centre and its highly flexible spaces will make it especially easy for associations to hold their conference. We understand the design of meetings have changed and we can cater to them. But ICC Sydney won’t definitely be a stand-alone facility: it will play a major part in the Darling Harbour precinct and create a sense of belonging to Sydneysiders. People have to feel we’re part of the bigger community and we’ll make sure this happens: the economic, financial and social impact of such a venue cannot be underestimated and this is a role we take quite seriously.’
For those of you who need figures, the ICC Sydney will boast 40,000 m2 of exhibition space, a total of 8,000 m2 of meeting spaces across more than 40 rooms linked to both the convention and exhibition, plenary space for 12,000 people over four different areas, and Sydney’s largest ballroom with a 2,000-people capacity.
Supported by the Union of International Associations (UIA), the International Association of Professional Congress Organisers (IAPCO) and the Interel Group, the global public affairs and association management consultancy, Headquarters Magazines serve the needs of international associations organising worldwide congresses.