Sydney Readies For More Groups As Olympic Games Loom - Business Travel News

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Sydney Readies For More Groups As Olympic Games Loom

June 23, 1997 - 12:00 AM ET

By JUDY JACOBS

Sydney - Publicity in the form of the 2000 Olympics has put the spotlight on this Australian metropolis, and there's an interest in the city unlike any the meetings and incentives industry has ever experienced.

"In the past year interest in Australia has been phenomenal," said Philippa Durant, New York-based incentive sales manager/North America of Pan Pacific Travel, a destination management company headquartered in Sydney.

"Companies which have never done an international trip are considering Australia as their first one. And nearly all incentives are either Sydney only, or Sydney and the Great Barrier Reef--Cairns or Port Douglas," Durant said.

"Although getting rooms in Sydney is not a problem now," she said, "it will be difficult toward the year 2000, so companies planning programs toward the end of the decade will need to be flexible."

However, pressure on hotel inventory resulting from the mad rush of visitors to Sydney in 2000 will be relieved somewhat by the hundreds of new hotel rooms coming up in the city (see story below). At the same time, the convention and trade show industry will be aided by the wider choice of facilities currently under construction, further strengthening the city's position as a popular conference center destination. Last year, the Sydney Convention and Visitors Bureau won more than 70 percent of the conventions for which it bid.

Perhaps the most important development is the expansion of the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Center in Darling Harbor, a long-anticipated project that was announced last fall.

"As far as we are concerned this announcement is the best news we've had since the Sydney Olympic Games win," said Ted Wright, chairman of the Sydney Convention and Visitors Bureau. "Sydney has been forced to turn away a significant amount of business over recent times. With this initiative, the state government has helped to protect Sydney's multibillion meetings industry."

The expansion will enlarge the center by 12 percent and, when completed in 1999, will include a 1,000-seat auditorium, a banquet hall accommodating 1,000 people and extensive exhibition facilities.

The Olympic facilities zone being created at Homebush Bay covers an area twice the size of the Sydney central business district and includes facilities that will be available to the convention and exhibition industry groups before and after the games.

Among them is Sydney Showground, an exhibition complex, scheduled to be completed next February. The complex will include a column-free exhibition hall, extensive meeting space which can be divided into smaller function rooms; and a round, glass-domed exhibition center.

At the same time, Australian Technology Park, a high-tech commercial and research facility, also will be Sydney's newest meeting and exhibition site when its conference and exhibition center opens in September. The new center will incorporate exhibit space, meeting and breakout rooms, a theater accommodating 550 people and dining facilities for 550.

Also planned for the complex are a hotel, apartments and an advanced technical skills center, set to be finished next year in Redfern, just eight minutes from Sydney's central business district.
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