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Centre to change face of industry

PERTH’S new convention centre will change the face of WA’s convention organising industry, says Congress West principal Katie Clarke.

Ms Clarke said it was very likely some eastern states operators would set up shop in Perth.

“I’d be surprised if some haven’t started already,” she said.

“It makes sense because of the distance factor. Plus these companies will want to try and gain some of the work being done in Perth.

“I think we’re in for a very interesting time”

She believes there would be growth in the industry.

“I’ve already seen it in my business over the past five years.

“I think the nature of the competition will change. Competition is not always about dollars.

“The dynamics are already changing in what eastern states operators are saying about the increasing competition from Perth.

“There will be a honeymoon period for the WA industry. The centre will be the new kid on the block but we will have to prove ourselves.”

Ms Clarke has been organising conferences for the past 17 years.

Yet she began her working life as a medical scientist.

“I knew I was never going to last in that field,” Ms Clarke said.

“In working on a few medical science committees over the years, I came to the conclusion that I enjoyed putting seminars and conferences together.”

Ms Clarke recently won the Meetings Industry Association of Australia national award for the Meeting Event of the Year for her coordination of the 1998 International Garden Centre Congress.

The event ran for a week, starting in Melbourne and ending in Sydney.

“It had various facets. It was part incentive travel, part tourist package holiday and part conference,” Ms Clarke said.

The event covered a lot of territory in both cities requiring a six-coach caravan to transport the 300 delegates.

Each coach was divided by language group.

“There was a different social function every night,” Ms Clarke said.

“I was told the delegates had to go on Sydney Harbour and go to the Sydney Opera House.”

The harbour tour was fairly easy but organising a function in the Opera House was a problem because it was hosting a Sydney Symphony Orchestra performance.

“I came up with the idea of mixing our function with the Sydney Symphony’s performance,” she said.

The event, usually held in the northern hemisphere, was brought to Australia by WA entrepreneur Barry Waldeck.

The 1994 Financial Planning Association’s national convention is the biggest event Ms Clarke’s company has handled. The previous two events had drawn up to 1,800 delegates. However, the Perth event drew 2,500.

“In the financial industry they are pretty tough operators when it comes to getting the benefits for their sponsorship dollars,” Ms Clarke said.

The event was held at the Burswood Resort Casino.

“We used every room in Burswood’s convention centre,” Ms Clarke said.

“We used 22 hotels and had to coordinate the transport to make sure delegates got to where they had to on time.”

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