19/08/2010 - 00:00

Make or break time for conventions

19/08/2010 - 00:00


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Next year’s CHOGM in Perth is a chance for the state’s events and exhibition sector to prove it can compete on the world stage.

Make or break time for conventions

WESTERN Australia is battling with Victoria and a Middle Eastern destination to secure a major mining convention and exhibition potentially worth $20 million to the local economy.

With 5,000 international delegates expected to attend the event in 2016, the boss of the WA’s business events marketing body says the state government must quickly realise, and act upon, the current opportunity it has to support a sector that is a strong contributor to the economy.

“It’s decision time for the WA state government to secure this conference,” Perth Convention Bureau managing director Christine McLean told Business Class.

“We will have to demonstrate that we can accommodate this conference by 2016 ... and that will require the government to actually make a commitment; that commitment means more hotels. So it’s make or break time for us.”

As previously reported by WA Business News, Ms McLean suggests that PCB’s $93 million return to the state for the past financial year could have been even larger if the state’s infrastructure was up to the task.

Meanwhile, the total value of business events for WA is estimated at more than $200 million annually, based on expenditure data thought to underestimate real value.

Ms McLean says the size of the 2016 conference means all of Australia is bidding against the Middle East competitor for hosting rights, but due to the conference’s mining focus WA is well placed in terms of its expertise in the sector.

“But if we can’t demonstrate that we can host it and Australia is chosen over the other destination then the business will go to Melbourne,” she says.

This means WA will risk losing this significant convention among other lucrative major international events if current capacity issues are not alleviated.

“Realistically I would like to bid for 5,000-delegate conferences but we can’t accommodate them; our capacity in WA is about 2,500-3,000,” she says.

“If we’re not going to increase our capacity do we shut our doors and go home?

“Is WA open for business or not, because we need to get pretty serious about it pretty soon.”

The eyes of the world will soon focus on WA when Perth hosts the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in October 2011.

“That will be the test case for us as we will be in the world spotlight in terms of hosting a business event, a world-class conference, and you get one chance to make a good impression and that’s our chance,” Ms McLean says.

“If we get it wrong it’ll impact on our ability to secure conferences in the future.”

She says this has the potential to harm operators in the business events sphere, including WA’s major hotels, convention centres and function facilities.

Major supporting partners of the PCB, Burswood Entertainment Complex and the Perth Convention Exhibition Centre realise the inherent value of business events and the potential risk from not improving conference facilities and supporting infrastructure.

Burswood chief operating officer Andrew Hill says his company has invested $130 million in development across the complex to further enhance its facilities over the past two years with a further $350 million planned investment over the next three years.

PCEC general manager David Lee says convention centres in Brisbane and Melbourne have received investment funding during past 12 months, with Sydney recently announcing a $200 million redevelopment and Adelaide a $300 million redevelopment of their convention offerings.

“Without additional investment in the scale and range of facilities available to attract large international events, Perth will continue to become uncompetitive relative to the development occurring both in Australia and in this region,” he says.

VenuesWest chief executive David Etherton oversees numerous convention facilities found in WA Business News’ Book of Lists (see page 20) including Challenge Stadium, the recently opened WA Athletics Stadium and WA Basketball Centre, as well as the Perth Arena.

These venues (with the exception of the yet-to-be-completed Perth Arena) host hundreds of corporate events each year, aligning elite sport and performance with business, and he suggests Perth is well prepared to host CHOGM.

“We can host CHOGM, and obviously we’re flexible enough to host large-scale international high profile events,” Mr Etherton says.

AEG Ogden controls Perth Theatre Trust venues including the Perth Concert Hall and His Majesty’s Theatre, and the State Theatre Centre of WA, which will open later this year.

Chief executive Rodney Phillips says his six-figure annual events business has been of great support to his arts-focused organisation over the last decade.

“If managed well functions and events are quite profitable, and it helps subsidise the overall operations,” he says.





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