Melbourne Takes AIME at MICE

SUCCESSFUL MEETINGS JULY 2006 "Melbourne is going to be the world's first purpose-built convention city," said Sandra Chipchase, CEO of Melbourne Convention + Visitors Bureau (MCVB), at this year's AsiaPacific Incentives & Meetings Expo (AIME). The event is Asia Pacific's most significant industry event for the meeting, incentive, conference, and event (MICE) market. Significantly, the 2006 AIME (owned by the MCVB) delivered its largest and most impressive exhibition to date: 850 exhibitors from 50 countries, enticing buyers with an array of properties, from boutique tropical resorts to state-of-the-art convention facilities.

It also provided an opportunity to showcase the diverse range of conference and incentive resourcing in Melbourne, which is traditionally perceived as Australia's "second city" after Sydney. Recognizing the value of growing the corporate tourism sector, Melbourne has new developments under way that may tip the balance of MICE in its favor; notably, a planned $750-million expansion of Melbourne's convention precinct that will raise single-event capacity to 5,000 delegates, with a subdivisible auditorium able to host two concurrent 2,500-delegate events, and a direct connection to the exhibition centre. The precinct will also add a five-star Hilton to the mix (a five-star Crown Towers hotel and casino is already across the street), and several new restaurants and retail developments. In Melbourne's downtown, local government and industry are investing a staggering $7 billion in redevelopment of Melbourne's Docklands-an undertaking that will add retail, leisure, residential, and office space, and parkland around the waterfront.

MCVB will soon offer a new range of specialized incentive packages targeting the U.S. market, focused on luring more-and larger-meetings and incentives groups down under. "Tell the U.S. we're ready," quipped Chipchase.