Sydney, Australia, has world-class cultural venues, a sophisticated hotel inventory and a huge roster of convention-ready venues that were built for the 2000 Olympics. But, until now, the capitol of New South Wales hasn’t aggressively marketed itself as a conventions destination to U.S. planners.
“We haven’t really focused on the conference market overseas because [of] the price of airfare before,” says New South Wales Tourism Minister Jodi McKay. “But now airfare is so low, it certainly becomes affordable. We are aggressively targeting the U.S. market for this very reason.”
Currently, roundtrip airfare from the West Coast for group travel is $400-600 per person. Quantas Airways is offering a $999/person roundtrip package from the West Coast that includes six nights’ accommodation in a four-star hotel.
“In the last 20-30 years, I’ve never seen [prices] that low,” McKay says. “What is driving down price at the moment is competition on this route … combined with the global financial crisis and people’s reluctance to travel.” Three airlines offer service to Sydney from the West Coast: United Airlines, Quantas and V (Virgin) Australia. Delta will begin daily service to Sydney from Atlanta, via Los Angeles, on July 1.
“The other advantage is the dollar, which usually trades at $1 [US] to $1.50 [AUD],” McKay says. “When they look at the exchange rate, most U.S. residents find that their vacation has been really affordable.”
Sydney has several festivals that can provide a colorful backdrop for citywide conferences or incentives. Creative Sydney (May 27 to June 12) is a celebration of local music, design, architecture, gaming, photography, performance, writing, radio, film, TV, media arts, advertising and visual arts. From May 26 to June 14, Vivid Sydney will literally light up the city with sound and vision spectaculars at some of Sydney’s most iconic landmarks. Crave Sydney, a month-long celebration of local food, wine and culture, is scheduled for October. During January and February, Vivacity Sydney features several cultural events, including a grand Chinese New Year celebration, complete with a fireworks display. This year, from Oct. 10 to 18, Sydney also will be the host of the World Masters Games, which features more than 25,000 athletes from 100 countries competing in sporting events ranging from baseball to cycling, track and field to swimming, and everything in-between.
McKay says Business Events Sydney, formerly the Sydney Convention and Visitors Bureau, can assist planners interested in bringing events to the city. “From the West Coast, the flight is only 14 hours, which is equivalent to flights to some of the major European cities. Plus, it’s overnight, so it doesn’t feel that [long]. It’s more affordable than a European trip.”
And, she adds, “Australians love Americans.”