Conferencing in Regional Destinations
19 August 2019 • Industry News
A number of Australia’s regional areas are seeing first-hand the win-win outcomes that occur when a business event is staged outside the usual capital city locations.
From an Australian economy perspective, the growing trend to regional conferencing enables far greater dispersal of the business event dollar, into regions where it can have significant impact.
The regional host destination enjoys the more obvious economic input arising from venue, accommodation and entertainment expenditure, often occurring during the traditionally quieter mid-week periods. A significant side benefit from regionally-held events is that they often provide attendees with a first-time encounter with places they might not otherwise have considered visiting. A positive experience can subsequently serve to whet delegate appetites to return with family and friends as a leisure visitor.
Depending upon the type of conference, there is additional scope to showcase the region’s business and industry assets, via off-site technical tours, expert local guest speakers and potential trade show support.
From the planner’s perspective, regional locations offer their delegates breathing space to share and explore new ideas and network in relaxed open spaces, away from the distractions and pressures of the city. More effective delegate engagement is the positive outcome. Compact regional destinations also mean less stress for planners in dealing with traffic and transport issues, as well as crowded city venues.
Many regional destinations offer a cost-effective proposition, with venue and accommodation costs significantly lower than their capital city cousins. Support funds are increasingly being made available by local councils to address any perceived distance, time and cost challenges and to effectively sweeten the deal.
By example, the Mackay Region on the Central Queensland coast, encompasses all of these advantages. In addition to being home to the largest purpose-built convention centre between Brisbane and Cairns, it is a powerhouse of industry, from mining and resources to marine and agribusiness. Mackay has been able to attract significant business events which have in turn, drawn attention to the region’s many assets and areas of expertise, such as cutting-edge bioenergy initiatives associated with the sugarcane industry and the natural attractions of reef and rainforest.
Event planners can be concerned that a regional destination might not offer the infrastructure to which they and their delegates are accustomed. However, many regional destinations now offer capital city standard conferencing facilities and quirky offsite networking venues, with Mackay no exception. The Mackay Entertainment and Convention Centre offers an auditorium seating 1090 delegates, plenary halls and exhibition space plus at least 800 four star + accommodation rooms within walking distance.
Importantly, regional destinations often provide easy access to warmly welcoming local councils, which offer invaluable in-kind and financial support. Recognising that business events provide significant opportunities
to attract investment, develop new business and industry relationships and enable locals to access great educational opportunities, the Mackay Regional Council conducts an “Invest Mackay Events and Conference Attraction Program”. This Program offers invaluable funding support to qualified events which bring benefit to the region.
Regional destinations such as Mackay are keen to enhance the conference and destination experience, assisting conference delegates to actively engage with the broader community, when relevant to do so.
An excellent example was the Australian Wagyu Association Conference for 480 plus delegates, which was held in Mackay in 2018. In order to ensure delegates felt welcome, Mackay Regional Council supported and encouraged a range of city-wide activations which ensured a high degree of local community engagement and interaction. “Wagyu Week” saw the city’s restaurants featuring Wagyu beef dishes on their menus, Wagyu cooking demonstrations were staged at five different locations, there was live music in the city centre, a screening of the Australian comedy movie, “The BBQ” and city centre dining. Not only great for delegates but a clever and effective way to raise local community awareness regarding the value of business events.
About the Mackay Entertainment and Convention Centre
The MECC has multiple spaces including a 1090-seat auditorium and two plenary halls with capacity to seat 1500 delegates theatre-style or 800 guests banquet style. In addition, there are four meeting rooms, a 100-seat studio space, two foyers, and a selection of break-out rooms. The Convention Centre Precinct also includes the contemporary Artspace regional art gallery, expansive Civic Lawns and the Mackay City Library. All offer additional break-out meeting rooms and alternative function options.
The Mackay Region sits halfway between Brisbane and Cairns in Queensland, offering a relaxed regional city, serviced by 65+ weekly flights. The 1000 seat MECC convention centre is enhanced by a portfolio of more than 1000 rooms within walking distance, along with amazing rooftop venues with panoramic views of the blue-water river and ocean. The Mackay Region’s growth is fuelled by the boom in the mining industry in the Bowen Basin, resurgence in agribusiness, growth in tourism and an emerging marine sector. It is the largest sugar-producing area in Australia and nearly a third of Queensland’s export goods originate from the Mackay region.
Interested in holding your next event in a regional destination? Meet with the Mackay Region at AIME 2020.