Sydney Focuses On Corp. Mtgs., Nearly Triples Asian Biz - Business Travel News

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Sydney Focuses On Corp. Mtgs., Nearly Triples Asian Biz

January 17, 2005 - 12:00 AM ET

By Douglas Quenqua

More than 13,000 attendees, occupying rooms in more than 10 hotels, this month will descend on Sydney, Australia, for an Amway conference spanning more than three weeks. The event is the largest incentive conference Sydney ever hosted. It's no mistake that just about every one of those travelers will come from Hong Kong, Taiwan or China.

Sydney's tourism community has gone all out in recent years to attract business travelers from Asia, and the Amway conference is just one reason to believe those efforts are working. The number of Asian business and incentive travelers coming to Sydney nearly tripled in 2004, and projections for the coming year are optimistic.

Australia itself is uniquely positioned as a destination for travelers from China, Japan, Taiwan, or any of the surrounding areas. "Sydney is located in a similar time zone as most of Asia," which offers travelers the rare opportunity to attend a conference without jet lag, said Sydney Convention and Visitors Bureau general manager of marketing Kate Bolinger. "We have good trade agreements in the region, particularly in the area of education."

More than 37 airlines fly into Sydney Airport, which makes it easily accessible from most of Asia. Australia already has a high Asian population, which means familiar cultural fare for those coming from overseas.

In the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, the state government of New South Wales distributed $15 million to a variety of tourism and travel bodies to revive tourism in Sydney. One recipient was SCVB, which used the funds to open a dedicated Asian sales division. Then, in July 2004, SCVB teamed with the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre to open an office in Hong Kong. That office has provided a beachhead for the campaign, as well as a convenient point of contact for Asian planners.

"Incentive groups from Europe and the U.S. are generally between 50 to 300 people, whilst groups from Asia more commonly range between 500 and 4,000," said SCVB managing director Jon Hutchison. "So not only are we seeing more bookings from Asia than other markets, we're also seeing far larger groups."

Sydney reaped a record $27.7 million in Asian business meetings and events in the 2003/2004 travel season. That's a 270 percent increase over the previous year.

Obstacles do remain to Sydney's growth in the Asian travel market. Competition from other Australian destinations threaten to derail Sydney's dominance, and certain Chinese trade restrictions make it harder for any of the country's destination to draw business travelers.
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