International (Destination)

March 2016

Sydney is investing big in its meetings future

by Jeff Heilman

  • /Portals/0/images/Magazine/2016/0316/Sydney1.jpg

    Bennelong Restaurant

  • /Portals/0/images/Magazine/2016/0316/Sydney2.jpg

    Darling Harbour

  • /Portals/0/images/Magazine/2016/0316/Sydney3.jpg

    Slipper Lobster, Bennelong Restaurant

Like the animated light, video and music spectacle that dances on the sails of the Sydney Opera House and other structures during the annual 18-day Vivid Sydney winter festival, Australia’s largest city and leading business events destination is truly illuminating for groups.  

For meetings of the mind and pleasure pursuits alike, multidimensional Sydney is poised for yet more starlight as 2016 sees the curtain lift on game-changing MICE-related investments.

“Sydney is entering an exciting new era with urban development and infrastructure projects charging ahead,” says Lyn Lewis-Smith, CEO, Business Events Sydney. “We’re looking forward to some major unveilings in the next 12 months—most notably the opening of the International Convention Centre Sydney [ICC Sydney] this December.”

Commanding the Darling Harbour waterfront, the multi-venue facility is already attracting major bookings, while adding more wattage to Sydney’s global MICE beacon.

G’Day Darling

Few urban settings can match the visual glory of Sydney Harbour and its skyscraper-backed landmarks, including the historic district The Rocks, Royal Botanic Garden and of course the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House.  

Located around the tip of Miller’s Point west of this postcard-perfect scene, Darling Harbour is poised to assert its own dynamic identity when the integrated ICC Sydney convention, exhibition and entertainment complex opens later this year.

The wow factor begins with ICC Sydney’s multi-angled geometric design, and continues with its credentials. Replacing the outdated Sydney Exhibition and Convention Centre, the A$1.1 billion project (US$790 million) is part of the larger A$3 billion (US$2.1 billion) transformation of Darling Harbour.

With an attached 600-room headquarters hotel and another 4,500 rooms within a 10-minute walk, the high-tech complex is versatility defined.

Scalable from 3,500 to 8,000 attendees, the tiered ICC Sydney Theatre is ideal for plenary sessions and entertainment. Offering more than 376,000 square feet of exhibition space, ICC Sydney Exhibitions includes a huge open-air event deck with a bar and lounge. With venues including tiered plenary theaters for 2,500 and 1,000 delegates, respectively, and 86,000-plus square feet of space in 70 meeting rooms, ICC Sydney Conventions will also feature Australia’s largest ballroom. Offering superb city and water views, the top-floor room can accommodate 2,000 for banquets or 3,500 for cocktail receptions.

Planners are already lining up to say g’day to the new facility.

“Global interest is strong and we have already secured more than 30 events in the professional services, medical, technology and other sectors for ICC Sydney, with many more in the pipeline,” says Lewis-Smith. “Along with greater hosting capacity, the new center’s close proximity to the CBD [Central Business District], the education and start-up hub in Ultimo (including the University of Technology Sydney) and other vibrant precincts will help to deepen and broaden connections for clients, enhancing collaboration and meeting outcomes.”

The overall rejuvenation of Darling Harbour also bodes well for the future.

“Bringing more hotel rooms, businesses, students and locals to the area while improving links to neighboring university and innovation suburbs, the project helps reinforce Sydney’s position as the intellectual capital of Australia,” Lewis-Smith says.


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