Melbourne’s Mega Convention Centre

A cutting edge business events facility being rolled out in a beautiful riverside city will lure more delegates ‘down under’.

Even though New Year 2008 celebrations have just ended, Leigh Harry is already looking ahead to mid 2009 and the commissioning of the Melbourne Convention Centre (MCC), the newest entrant on the MICE planner’s world calendar.

The chief executive of the new mammoth facility – which is fully integrated with the adjoining Melbourne Exhibition Centre – has much to look forward to as the new state-of-the-art business events centre was designed to be structurally striking and environmentally outstanding.

The Victorian State Government has invested AUSD370 million towards the construction of the convention centre with the City of Melbourne contributing a further AUSD43 million to the project. “This significant tourism infrastructure investment is part of the Victorian Government’s agenda to grow the AUSD1.2 billion (USD1.08 billion) business events sector and will pave the way for Victoria to further compete in the lucrative business events market, one of our fastest growing tourism sectors,” said Mr Harry.

The new MCC is part of a AUSD1 billion development which includes a Hilton hotel, a lifestyle retail precinct and 60,000 sq. m of shopping all located in a revitalised area of central Melbourne. The development will complete the urban renewal of the Yarra River’s edge linking Southbank to Docklands.

Centrepiece of the 66,000 sq. m MCC is a 5,000 seat plenary hall which can be subdivided into three acoustically separate plenary halls for 1,000, 1,500 or 2,500 delegates. Total flexibility ensures that this resource can be easily transformed from full plenary to grand theatre layouts or be configured to suit groups needing space for intimate theatre presentations, small conferences, cabaret areas or flat floor banquets.

The centre’s entry level foyer will be capable of hosting 8,400 guests who will have views out to the Yarra River through the glass wall façade.

Another unusual aspect of the centre is that there is no back side to the building. It will be equally attractive from any vantage point. Designed to achieve a Six Green Star environmental rating, the MCC will also be one of the greenest convention centres in the world. Many of the building materials used to achieve this are sourced from renewable sustainable industries. Additionally, natural light and lighting controls on installed lighting will cut down energy usage while the centre will have solar panels capable of delivering all public amenity hot water requirements.

A black water recycling plant will recycle waste water to supply toilets, cooling towers and irrigate landscapes. This is estimated to reduce water consumption by 50% compared to what would normally be used in a building of this size. Delegates will also literally breathe easier.

Cool air will be released at a lower level of the building, not second hand air which is traditionally pumped through the ceilings of large buildings.

Environmental experts say this procedure results in far more attentive delegates.

Actual construction is expected to be completed by the end of this year. While the tallest free standing crane in Australia is now rapidly shaping the 25M high MCC, conventions are being booked just as quickly.

The latest wins for the new centre include the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics Conference expected to draw over 4000 delegates and the 5th International Congress of the Asia Pacific Society of Infection Control which will see a further 1000 delegates arrive in Melbourne.

Other events confirmed for the MCC are the International Federation of Operational Research Conference in 2011 and the Parliament of the World’s Religions in 2009, the latter event alone attracting 10,000 delegates to Melbourne.

Already more than 17 international conventions are booked for the new centre bringing more than 42,000 international business travellers to the city and injecting more than AUSD285 million to the State economy.

A number of these events have been secured in large part through the efforts of motivated individuals involved in the Club Melbourne Ambassadors Program. Established by the Melbourne Exhibition and Convention Centre and the Melbourne Convention and Visitors Bureau, the innovative program is designed to optimise Melbourne’s involvement in the lucrative business events market.

Members must meet strict criteria to be considered and unlike many other ambassador programmes which utilise celebrities to bring in business, the Club Melbourne Ambassadors Program is focused on brains not brawn. Starting with just 20 members in 2005, it now boasts 80 of the intellectual leaders in the science, medical and research fraternities in Victoria.

In addition to utilising this novel method to secure business for the city, the Melbourne Convention and Visitors Bureau (MCVB) established two Asian offices (Hong Kong and Singapore) in July 2006 to focus on securing business from high spending Asian corporate and incentive markets. In the first year of operation the focus of the Asian offices was to educate the business events industry in Melbourne and MCVB members about the Asian market and the incentive sector.

In the latter part of the 2006/2007 financial year, Melbourne started to see results. Feedback from Asian based buyers said they were impressed with the options for unique Melbourne itineraries while the city is starting to get a reputation as the stylish and sophisticated alternative to Sydney and Gold Coast.

In the last financial year MCVB’s incentive unit secured 21 international incentive and corporate events worth more than AUSD48 million in economic impact. A real coup for the incentive unit this year was the announcement that Melbourne had been selected as the destination to host the Amway Greater China Leadership Seminar in April 2008. This event will see over 8,000 guests arriving in the city for a packed programme of educational seminars and social programmes including a gala dinner.

The MCVB hosted the organisers in March/April 2006 and has been in continual negotiations to confirm venues and other programme details to ensure the success of this major event worth some AUSD35 million to the Victorian economy.

Melbourne also hosted its biggest familiarisation tour ever in July 2007 with over 30 Asian buyers taking part in a four day programme.

In addition, MCVB’s Asian offices organised a road show in Asia with Melbourne suppliers to showcase the city’s high-end offerings and bolster Melbourne’s status as Australia’s business events capital.