High hopes for new convention centre

THE planned Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre may be several years from completion but already the facility has snagged bookings for nine conventions and 36 exhibitions.

It’s expected that 13,600 delegates will visit the State from the nine bookings already made, representing 75,000 hotel room nights.

Perth Convention Bureau (PCB) managing director Anne-Maree Ferguson said WA had not been considered as a venue for many conferences during the past decade due to the lack of a dedicated conference centre.

“We are already uncompetitive when bidding for larger international conventions against cities with dedicated convention facilities,” Ms Ferguson said.

“Conventions that have met in WA in previous years are now at the point where they won’t reconfirm the convention in Perth because of the absence of a centre.

“Most of these people (from the planned conventions) would not be coming to WA without the convention centre.”

Already WA is wining back some of the conferences lost in past years, with the Housing Industry Annual Convention, representing 1500 delegates, coming back to WA after having left due to a lack of suitable facilities.

The Financial Planning Association convention is one of the nine currently booked and is expected to attract 1000 visitors.

Although Ms Ferguson was not at liberty to disclose the names of the other seven conventions booked, she indicated many were medical conferences.

The PCB is currently bidding for a further 20 conferences on behalf of the centre.

“We are working on 20 conferences through to the year 2008 and, when confirmed, they will attract 31,600 delegates. That will generate about $144 million in overall economic impact,” Ms Ferguson said.

“They are conventions that have not met in WA previously.

“Most are international conventions, which provide the highest delegate expenditure.”

Ms Ferguson said the centre would generate between $1.5 and $2 billion in revenue in its first 10 years of operation, with a large proportion of that revenue flowing into the tourism industry.

“One of the primary benefits of hosting a convention is the delegate expenditure as a result of interstate and international visitation,” she said. “It has proven elsewhere to have a massive impact on the tourism industry.

“There will be new business opportunities and more opportunities for existing business.”

Ms Ferguson said she hoped the new centre would not only bolster existing tourism-related businesses, but also allow smaller businesses to expand.

“Smaller business will have the opportunity to become medium-size business,” she said.

“Brisbane is a similar city, where a number of small business on the periphery of the tourism industry have turned into medium-sized businesses.

“They’ve increase staff levels and generated intentional work they’ve not previously had involvement in.”

Ms Ferguson cited the recent example of a conference in Perth where Japanese delegates wanted white limousines.

There were not enough in Perth to accommodate the demand, so the hire company thought laterally and freighted the additional vehicles in from Sydney on the Indian Pacific.

Along with expanding smaller businesses’ operations in Perth, it’s hoped the centre also will give Perth businesses the opportunity to network on an international scale.

“The convention centre will act as a window to the world for these companies,” Ms Ferguson said.

“It’s the ultimate town hall for the new century, providing a place for people to come together and expand their economic boundaries within their discipline, and to create jobs in the process.”

While providing an opportunity for local businesses to expand, it’s also hoped the centre will act as a showcase for WA industries, putting the best of our technological, agricultural, medical and mining industries on display for international visitors to see.

Members of the Perth Convention Bureau

are given information about future conferences and exhibitions booked through PCB, such as booking dates and contact details, to help them market their services to potential customers.

The Perth Convention Centre is set to open in January 2004 and bookings held by the PCB for the centre will be handed over to the operators in September this year.

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