Meetings in Australia’s Heartland…
Doing business in Alice Springs is very much about being connected to the land and aboriginal people, and leaves you feeling like you have just experienced the very heartland of Australia as Kirstie Bedford found out.
Few places can claim to be so quintessentially Australian at Alice Springs – providing backdrops of red mountain ranges and vast open landscapes.
Combine that with incredible cuisine to rival any major city in Australia and venues, hotels and tourism operators who work together to ensure you get the best experience of the region possible, and you’ll get a clear picture of what it’s like to do business here.
Culture of course also plays a key part of any business event in Alice, and you’ll leave feeling a whole lot richer for it.
My whirlwind weekend with a small group of our readers and event decision makers from Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne, began at Lasseters, on the site of the Alice Springs Convention Centre, where we were quick to see how easy it would be to do business here.
Lasseters has a resort feel to it, with a large pool area, spa, four dining options as well as a pool side café, and of course the convention centre on site which can cater for everything from meetings of 10 people through to conferences of 1,200 delegates and exhibitions with up to 3,000 visitors.
Its piece de resistance has to be the outdoor amphitheater (referred to as the courtyard) with a backdrop of MacDonnell ranges, which are in sight no matter where you go in Alice, and a spectacular reminder you’re in outback Australia.
With Lasseters, Double Tree by Hilton (with five dedicated meeting spaces and a Grand Ballroom) and Quest serviced apartments all within two kilometres of each other you’d expect them to be fiercely competitive – but that’s not the Alice way.
Each property helps the other out and all heavily promote the region first.
While there are plenty of indoor event spaces both at the convention centre and Double Tree, there are no shortages of outdoor spaces either.
Ten minutes from the centre of town is Alice Springs Desert Park, an area of significant cultural importance to the local Arrernte people.
The park has numerous outdoor shelters available for meeting and dining spaces and can house 180 people for dinner in the nocturnal house – which has 40 nocturnal animals, many which are extinct or endangered including the Rufous Hare-wallaby. The park prides itself on being able to incorporate wild animals into your meeting giving guests a rare close encounter with endangered wild life including the pure bred Australian Dingo.
Four kilometres out of town is the stunning Alice Springs Telegraph Station whose 1870s restored buildings are frequently photographed. Marking the historic site of the first European settlement in Alice Springs, it was established in 1891 to replay messages between Darwin and Adelaide, and linking an underwater cable network to London – establishing the first real communication between Australia and England.
The large grounds create the perfect ambience for a dinner after dark with long tables and fairy lights and once your gourmet three course meal is finished you can give guests a star gazing lesson with a star himself – Dan Falzon, the former heartthrob of favourite Australian drama ‘Neighbours’. Falzon along with his brothers, runs Earth Sanctuary, which promotes all things sustainable. The former television star has spent 15 years understanding the night sky and will not only explain the galaxy to you, he’ll tell you the indigenous Australian stories behind the stars.
The Old Quarry is an outdoor outback venue surrounded by ragged rock faces which are a spectacular sight at sunset and can be used as a dramatic backdrop for anything from a projection of images to fireworks. Fifteen minutes from the centre of town the venue stages the ‘Cup Carnivale’, a social event at the end of the Alice Springs Cup Carnival – a great way to show delegates how versatile the venue is with circus performers, food vans and a dessert stall.
Another spectacular ‘unconventional’ venue, Simpons Gap, is not only awe inspiring but an important spiritual site to the Arrarnta Aboriginal people – and if you look carefully you might even see a Black-footed rock wallaby. Here we were able to dine on bush tucker and listen to indigenous guides who are happy to share their own stories, and guide and educate you on their culture.
For those wanting to ensure they really give back to the community, buying corporate gifts from The Purple House’s Wellbeing Program is a must. This incredible programme is one of its initiatives to ensure much needed dialysis treatment is given to the local aboriginal community across the NT in a mobile dialysis service.
For break-out activities nothing says outback like camels, and there are plenty of options with outback cameleer Marcus Williams, who has been training camels for 34 years.
The camels take two at a time, so for those that are (ahem) a little bit nervous climbing on the back of this large humped mammal, you have a travelling companion to pat you on the back and talk you through it.
Marcus can also have camels come to you for a quick ten-minute ride from your location, wherever you may be, and you can climb a platform and step straight onto its back.
They say you can only truly appreciate a region from height, and for me, the highlight had to be the experience on Outback (hot air) Ballooning, watching the sunrise as two large kangaroos bounded across the open rugged terrain. I can’t imagine a better way to salute the great Australian outback.
HERE’S WHAT OUR MEMBERS HAD TO SAY…
“Alice Springs has a wide range of offerings to suit most budgets, good accessibility and excellent facilities. I found the location to be great, the relaxed atmosphere sets the mood the minute you walk of the plane. The team building activities are great fun, the hot air ballooning, camel rides and the afternoon at the races make it an enjoyable and memorable occasion.”
– Maxine Stevenson, ANZ
“When the invitation to Alice Springs came through, I thought ‘why would anyone go to Alice Springs for a conference?’ Now my question is “why would anyone not go to Alice for a conference.?’ However, I do see there’s a big problem holding an event in a town that is the geographical centre of Australia. There’s so much to do in Alice that a conference organiser will have difficulty in stopping delegates riding camels, ballooning at dawn, holding juvenile pythons, learning about the night sky and playing golf so that they can actually attend sessions.”
– Philippa Yelland, Fiducian Group Ltd
“The famil program showcased the unconventional experiences can be layered into your programs in Alice Springs. The evening event at the Quarry was a feast for the senses with a favourite of the famil delegates; the construction workers serving dessert from the back of a truck – Alice is not afraid to do things differently.”
-Nicole Jervis, host, Northern Territory Convention Bureau