Island Meetings

lready a major tourist attraction, Australia’s lone island state is chasing corporate bookings with its clean-and-green image and easily-accessed MICE facilities, say Chris Pritchard and Claire Muir.

As a PA, putting yourself firmly in the pro-Tasmania camp makes sense. It’s well-equipped with tech-savvy venues and, although it lacks a dedicated conference centre, statistics reveal nine out of 10 Australian meetings attract 500 delegates or less – and the largest venue at present caters for more than 1,000 guests. As a result, it’s increasingly popular for conferences and, married with its tourist popularity, commonly attracts delegates whose families tag along for holidays before or after meetings.

There does seem to be a corporate focus in the region, with the Tasmanian School of Business and Economics, Startup Tasmania (an organisation that promotes and supports new businesses across the state) and a regularly updated list of local business movers and shakers – the varied 2017 run-down includes a ship builder, a fish farmer and a developer.

Business Events Tasmania, responsible for marketing the destination to EAs and other event bookers, says that almost all (96 per cent) delegates recommend holding events in the state with more than 90 per cent describing themselves as being highly satisfied with the friendliness and helpfulness encountered.

CEO Stuart Nettlefold notes: “We’re welcoming business events visitors in record numbers. We’ve a growing reputation as a world-class business events destination, offering some of the finest meeting facilities and accommodation in one of the world’s most stunning environments. What’s more; we’re readily accessible.”

He’s right – four Australian airlines (Qantas, Jetstar, Tigerair and Virgin Australia) serve Hobart, the state capital, either directly or with easy connections from some mainland cities.

The main event
The chances are that your Tasmanian event or the boss’ big meeting will be held in quaint Hobart. Founded in 1804 as a penal colony, this small city of only 225,000 people oozes history but many original buildings have been internally refurbished to create attractive contemporary office space.

The biggest venue is the Hobart Convention and Exhibition Centre, which is part of a leading hotel. Its prime downtown location is on the water’s edge with views encompassing the Derwent River, lofty Mount Wellington and a working harbour called Constitution Dock in the Derwent’s estuary. The dockside area, with several top restaurants, is ideal if the boss needs to impress a client.

Hobart’s second major venue is a circular landmark called Wrest Point Hotel Casino; a complex accommodating up to 1,000 delegates with facilities aplenty for small meetings, too. On that note, although many of the local hotels are small, their top-notch conference facilities attract many meetings.

Other than Hobart, towns in the rest of the 68,401 sq km state also have good conference facilities too, often in charming rural settings. And number two city Launceston (a 200km freeway drive from Hobart) is debating whether it needs a dedicated conference centre.

Settling in
When it comes to where to stay, it’s recommended you book the boss into the venue where the meeting will be held – not just for convenience but because significant discounts on room rates given when conference space is booked.

If that doesn’t suit, however, you won’t be short of accommodation options. There’s an excellent range, from boutique hotels to extremely hospitable bed & breakfasts to luxury cabins and cottages in the wilderness, if your manager fancies a walk on the wild side.

And for getting around, let the boss know that there are no train services in Tasmania – bus and coach are an option, but to get from A to B quickly, car hire is the best option. The roads are said to be good (although some hire cars come with limitations on which can be driven on) and there are scenic views galore.

Business decorum
If your manager is doing business with the locals, don’t worry too much about unusual customs as Tasmanian business is done in the same informal way of other Australian areas, and social gaffes are near-impossible.

However, punctuality is the name of the game. This slightly formal requirement contrasts with the rest of the casual business dealings where first names are quickly adopted and jackets discarded (though be wary of doing so during cold Tasmanian mid-year winters). Bear in mind though that this cheerfulness doesn’t mean locals are gullible – they’re often well-travelled and drive hard bargains.

Making plans to visit the home of a client or associate? Ensure the boss is armed with something as it’s assumed they will be. A bottle of wine, flowers or chocolates go down well, as would a tasteful gift drawing attention to the visitor’s origins.

Team time out?
If you’re planning a team building activity or incentive day in Tasmania, you’ll be spoiled for choice. Arrange coaches for a 20-minute trip to Mount Wellington (a chilly vantage point with views over the city and the Derwent) or take a day trip to the 362 sq km Bruny Island, just 72km from Hobart and famed for cottage industry cheese production and hiking trails.

Other potential excursions include boat trips along the rugged coast, with gigantic southern right whales most commonly spotted between May and July, as well as a multiplicity of vineyard tours, with cellar-door stops to try and buy the state’s prized wines. Newer options include craft beer, whisky and gin trails – with drives though spectacular countryside to visit some of Tasmania’s micro-distilleries.

Why Tasmania?
According to Business Events Tasmania, reasons for choosing the state include:

  • It’s a historical and naturally beautiful destination with a growing corporate profile
  • It’s easily reached from the Australian mainland
  • Local residents are friendly, helpful and welcoming
  • There’s a selection of outstanding conference venues
  • Post-meeting entertainment? The state is increasingly celebrated for its food, wine and vibrant arts scene

A PA in the know…
“Tasmania has a lot to offer business travellers after hours, especially if they’re into nature. A visit to Wine Glass Bay is an absolute must and there are plenty of national parks with bushwalks to cater for all fitness levels. For a city event, Hobart is a small, vibrant city and its Salamanca markets are well worth a visit.” – Cathryn Chawla, EA, Dimension Data.