Tropical North Queensland’s Dynamic MICE Duo

When the Cairns Convention Centre (CCC) was named the ‘World’s Best Congress Centre’ by the International Association of Congress Centres in 2004 more than a few jaws dropped. How could a newcomer meetings venue in a seemingly remote part of Australia leap over a long list of capable contenders spread throughout Europe, North America and Asia let alone soar above the fine facilities available elsewhere in the country?

But win it did and the CCC has never looked back, only forward to the next professionally organised event. Designed with the environment in mind and purpose built in the heart of 130,000- strong Cairns, the CCC has 22 meetings rooms each with state-of-the-art audio and video systems. The largest room can accommodate some 5,000 delegates. The acclaimed centre in tandem with other regional facilities has ranked TNQ third in Australia following Sydney and Melbourne for hosting the most international conventions.

The MICE industry generates significant economic benefits in Cairns and the immediate region. For instance, more than 43,000 delegates attended 495 corporate meetings and incentive events held in 30 regional venues during the second half of 2006. The figure was buoyed by the arrival of 2,500 delegates last December who participated in the second Amway Korea incentive organised in Cairns.

A number of unique activities were organised for this mega event which you can incorporate into personalised corporate incentives and post conference tours. A stirring cultural performance including boomerang throwing and an Aussie buffet dinner at the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park is a must inclusion. Other attractive add-ons are a champagne charged excursion in a Victorian era inspired carriage on the Kuranda Scenic Railway and an outstanding ride on the Skyrail Rainforest and Cableway which glides over a pristine jungle canopy for 7.5 km.

EASE OF ACCESS TO TNQ

Several international air carriers already glide between Asia and TNQ. Jetstar connects Cairns with Singapore, Denpasar, Nagoya and Osaka while Cathay Pacific has flights from Hong Kong to the city’s modern jet port. QANTAS links Cairns with Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka as well as Singapore (via Darwin).

Cairns has the edge over other centres when it comes to staging large scale conferences and exhibitions though a lovely little town to the north can not be overlooked. The picture perfect hour’s drive from Cairns International Airport past spa-centric Palm Cove to Port Douglas is on one of Australia’s most scenic stretches of road. The crystalline waters of the Coral Sea are seen to the right while to the left jungle-clad mountains jut skywards.

Port Douglas doesn’t disappoint either with the skyline of the idyllic haven punctuated with palm trees and not high rise buildings. Founded as a harbour for the inland gold fields in the late 19th century, Port Douglas – simply known as Port to locals – spent much of the 20th century as a sleepy seaside village deriving income from sugar and fishing. Today while it’s still decidedly laid back, 4,000 population Port is a sophisticated conference and incentive destination that’s much in demand.

The largest convention centre in town is located within 130 ha. of landscaped grounds at the Sheraton Mirage Port Douglas Resort. The Mirage Ballroom has a capacity for 300 delegates theatre style while the unusual Glade Pavilion with its translucent roof is suitable for 850 delegates theatre style or 1,000 for cocktails. Earlier this year the resort staged a spectacular gala dinner party to mark Kuoni’s 100th birthday.

Golf days and other corporate events can be organised at the Port’s two stylish championship golf courses. Adjacent to the resort, the Mirage Country Club has nine floodlit tennis courts, a novel aquatic driving range and a 6,261 metre challenge with some holes laid out parallel to the Coral Sea and others with forested mountain backdrops.

The Sea Temple Golf & Country Club provides a 6,125 metre romp around patches of rainforest while views of the McAlister Range are another pleasure. A lily laden lagoon also comes into play on the signature 9th, a picturesque hole frequented by a resident crocodile!

Corporates wishing to be accommodated next to one of the top links style golf courses in Australia should be booked into the Mantra Links Resort so they can enjoy a daybreak tee off before that first tedious meeting. One of eight Mantra branded properties in Port Douglas, the Mantra Links Resort caters to executives wanting either boutique style accommodation or self contained villas.

EXCLUSIVE CORPORATE HIDEAWAY

A new upmarket executive retreat and niche incentive refuge opened earlier this year. Raising the TNQ benchmark for luxury accommodation, Balé Port Douglas is a “6-star premium property set within 15 ha. of natural rainforest vegetation. We offer just 38 exclusive villas – called sanctuaries – that feature Balinese stylings in total harmony with the environment”, Alan Porteous, General Manger, told Mice in Asia.

Each sanctuary has an open courtyard and outdoor living precinct, two BBQ areas, a full kitchen and a private plunge pool. Everything adjoins a stylish lounge that features an LCD TV, DVD player and designer sound system. The lounge is a perfect venue for an exceptionally luxurious corporate dinner or a small but lavish meeting.

Beyond Port’s lethargic pace and urbane comforts are two World Heritage listed attractions: the celebrated coral formations of the Great Barrier Reef and verdant rainforests that have survived for more than 135 million years.

The Port’s cosy Marina Mirage is the restaurant and shop-dotted departure point where sea faring vessels of all shapes and sizes are moored from fishing boats to self contained cruisers. The latter regularly take boatloads of passengers to an offshore icon of Australia.

Port is one of the closest places to access the Great Barrier Reef, a 2,300 km long stretch of coral extending from the top of Queensland to just north of Bundaberg. More than 6,000 species of flora and fauna have been recorded in the warm waters and on 300 tropical islands that dot the great reef system.

If you think an amphitheatre of greenery would be more appropriate for your corporate clients then organise a team building event or a 4WD incentive to the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, the largest tract of lowland rainforest in Australia. This massive area of lush tropical vegetation and exceptional natural beauty is a tangible reminder of the ancient forests that once covered the earth’s surface. It’s pure magic.