Australia has a reputation that stretches far and wide as a sun-baked land of stunning natural beauty, unique wildlife, soaring coastlines and friendly faces. Thanks to Paul Hogan’s invitation to come and “put another shrimp on the barbie”, Australia is known as the place to be for a truly outback experience. It’s Australia’s natural wonders that put it on the map, and as every travelling Aussie can attest to, it’s the beaches, countryside and creepy-crawlies that capture foreigners’ attention the most.
When it comes to organising a corporate event down-under, regional Australia can deliver an experience that will leave a lasting impression. Outside of the major cities there’s a vast array of landscapes, lifestyles and activities that will keep delegates entertained and immersed. According to joint business-government strategic body, Tourism 2020, tourists rate Australia’s world-class beauty, climate, food and wine as the best when compared to 45 competitor nations, including the US and Japan.
The dollars and cents of regional business travel
Australia’s business events and tourism industries are following a steady trajectory of growth. Business events are responsible for a chunk of the nation’s tourism economy, and are growing on par with the increasing numbers of holiday-makers visiting Australia.
Regional tourism employs roughly 500,000 people nationally, but the growth of tourism remains steadily better in the capital cities, as Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and the like dominate both the tourist and business event field.
So, if the regional destinations are only stealing a minority of tourism business away from the major cities, then what is the draw-card for organising corporate experiences out bush?
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Regions are much more reliant on tourism than cities – tourism and business events are their bread and butter. Even though total their tourism income isn’t as large as the cities, it makes up a much larger share of their total income.
According to Australian Regional Tourism, Central Northern Territory has the biggest reliance on tourism in Australia, holding 24 percent of the territory’s “economic importance”. Tourism is also seasonal, and deeply subject to the ups and downs of the global economy. When belts tighten, holidays are always the first to be stricken from the budget. But regions’ reliance on the tourism industry means that suppliers and organisations will bend over backwards for business events in the off-season or when times are tough. Even when sailing is smooth, regional destinations have a reputation for exceptional hospitality and flexibility, particularly when dealing with corporate clients.
Not only are businesses in the regions keen to attract the corporate buyer, but so too are their local governments. Councils are spending 48 percent of their budgets on tourism growth, which means better visitor centres, business liaison officers, less red tape and more opportunity for partnerships for business travellers. On the national level, a five year commitment between Austrade (Australian Government and Investment Commission) and Tourism Australia means that the private and public sectors are coming together to gather investment and shore up interest in regional tourism, which is good news for the future of corporate travel in the far-out destinations of Australia.
As a result, EAs are organising more and more events in the regions. According to the 2018 Executive PA Corporate Event Organisers Survey (produced in partnership with the Association of Australian Convention Bureaux and Meetings & Events Australia), the percentage of EAs organising events in regional areas has risen from 22 percent to 29 percent since 2017. Nearly a third of those who organised regional events, arranged five or more. As regional businesses and their customers are all looking towards moving their events out bush, let’s have a look at some destinations that are not to be missed.
New South Wales North Coast
If the beach beckons, cool off and head to the North Coast of New South Wales, which locals know to have some of the very best coastal destinations in the country, even the world. The coastline that stretches between Newcastle and the Gold Coast is home to a myriad of tucked-away beaches, endless rainforests and vibrant communities that are keen to snap up corporate events in their gorgeous settings.
Byron Bay probably rings a bell for most Aussies, especially the Queenslanders and New South Welshmen that are lucky enough to live in driving distance. A two hour drive south of Brisbane will land you in this quintessential North Coast beach community. Popular among the young and trendy, Byron Bay offers some of the nation’s best regional dining experiences as well as coffee shops galore. Byron Bay is a Mecca for muso’s, home to the internationally famous Blues Fest, and a number of other summer music festivals. You can see a-list musicians from all around the world by the coastline in a relaxed, all ages environment.
If you’ve come for the stunning beaches and relaxed vibes, but still need to get down to business, don’t fret. Byron Bay is one of the most developed regional areas of the North Coast, with plenty of luxury and unique event and conference spaces to choose from.
Australia’s largest coastal saltwater lake is the place to be for fishing, boating and all things watersport. Have a relaxing sail over the lake, or turn up the volume and roar around in a super fast speedboat, there are activities for the chilled out or thrill-seeker alike.
Lake Macquarie also boasts some of Australia’s most iconic coastal geographic phenomena, so put on your Indiana Jones hats and go exploring the famous sea caves near Swansea. There are accommodation and conference space options for events of every size and style. From camping for those looking to get their hands dirty, to luxury hotels for that special corporate treat.
Lake Macquarie is an easy two hour drive north from Sydney, so both national and international visitors will be able to visit with ease and comfort.
Steeped in history and natural wonder, the northern reaches of Victoria are excellent for a ‘return to the country’ styled corporate event. Looking to relive the gold rush, or soak up the awe-inspiring mountain views? Northern Victoria is the region for you.
There is no better place to get a breath of fresh air than the Victorian High Country. With snow capped mountains, hidden valleys, and stunning rivers and creeks, the High Country is a place where delegates can refresh, re-energise and reconnect with Australia’s unique natural setting.
Take the office to a day spa, or capture a foreign delegate’s attention at one of the many artisan food, wine and craft beer venues that speckle the mountains and valleys. If you’re looking for a more extreme option, there is plenty of mountain biking, kayaking, or high-energy hiking experiences that let you soak up the views with the blood pumping.
Conference and accommodation options are abundant, and options for all budgets are available. Getting to and from the High Country is easy, with top-quality highways and train lines connecting directly to Melbourne’s CBD.
Regional Victoria is the homeland of bushrangers, cowboys and the famous goldfields that revolutionised Australia’s history. Nowadays, saloons and ranches have given way to boutique hotels and artisan coffee shops in Bendigo and Ballarat, while maintaining their one of a kind country charm.
You can put on your prospector’s digs and pan for gold at Sovereign Hill, a “living museum” that transports you back in time, as horse-drawn carts and gun-toting cowboys roam around you. Connected to Melbourne via train and highway, both Bendigo and Ballarat share the capital’s taste for world-class dining and drinking, with their own country twist. If you’re in the market for more modern, high-capacity options the Goldfields can deliver venues that can host up to 3000 delegates.
Australia is at its core, a countryside nation. It’s very identity is shaped by the outback and all it has to offer. Now that the major cities are becoming more popular with some event organisers, and venue options are becoming markedly more expensive, looking to the countryside may be the cheapest, and most unique option for your next corporate getaway.
Corporate events are all about experiences. If the city life is getting you down, then look to the country to really change things up, and make memories that will stay with you and your delegates for much longer.