Distinction in travel journalism
Is independent travel journalism important to you?
Click here to keep it independent

22 Jun, 2009

Melbourne Set To Give Sydney A Run For The Money

MELBOURNE: Barely a few months after the February 2009 bushfires, and in spite of reports of a swine flu outbreak, Melbourne has hosted a highly successful Australian Tourism Exchange and announced a slew of new developments designed to help it overtake key rival Sydney as Australia’s Number One city.

The early June 2009 opening of the Melbourne Convention Centre right next to the existing Melbourne Exhibition Centre has made it the largest combined facility of its kind in Australia.

In addition to claiming the first 6 Star Green Star environmental rating in Australia for a convention centre, the 5,000-seat facility has signed up 23 international conventions which Tourism Victoria says will bring in 50,000 delegates and inject more than AUD$327 million into Victoria’s economy.

The state government has spent $370 million on the new centre which will be accompanied by a massive A$1.4 billion worth of commercial and residential buildings.

More development is under way in the city’s waterfront Docklands designed for an estimated 20 million annual visitors, home for another 20,000 people and a workplace for 25,000. A Waterfront City project is to be a 19.3 hectare, $1 billion mixed-use precinct with an ongoing program of events and festivals and visitor attractions.

According to the quarterly International Visitor Survey results for the year ending March 2009, international overnight visitors to Victoria grew by 0.7% over the previous year to reach 1.5 million, while international visitor spend grew by 13% to $3.6 billion. This, despite the overall Australian national average falling by 1.6%.

Arrivals from India were up 29.6%, Hong Kong (+19.2%), Malaysia (+15.5%), Singapore (+14.1%), China (+10.0%), and Canada (+1.1%). It now claims to have 29% of the total international visitor arrivals to Australia. The growth in expenditure was also claimed to be stronger than the national average (+4.3%) and key competitors New South Wales (+1.8%) and Queensland (+0.5%).

The 163,200 Chinese visitors to Victoria for the year ending March 2009 spent 5.0 million visitor nights, +40.8% over the previous year and well above the 9% increase nationally. The 44,200 Indian visitors in the same period were up 29.6% and spent 2.6 million visitor nights.

Tourism Victoria also says Melbourne is outperforming other states in terms of attracting passengers and air carriers, thanks to Melbourne Airport’s curfew-free status, low passenger charges and single terminal layout. For April 2009, compared to April 2008, international passengers increased 8.8% to reach 420,089 passengers.

The $330 million redevelopment and expansion of Melbourne Airport’s international terminal, T2 is said to be on track for completion in 2011. That will double the size of the terminal and help it meet Victoria’s international aviation growth projections through to 2020.

Melbourne is being served by 23 international airlines, up from 21 at the same time last year. Two more carriers are due to commence services by end 2009: Qatar Airways to Doha in late 2009, and V Australia to Los Angeles in September 2009.

Etihad Airways commenced daily services to Abu Dhabi in March 2009, Emirates began a third daily service to Dubai in February 2009, and AirAsia X to Kuala Lumpur in November 2008.

Additional capacity has been added by other carriers such as Pacific Blue, Philippine Airlines, Air China, China Eastern and United Airlines. The airport already has three daily Singapore Airlines services, three daily Cathay Pacific services, two daily Malaysian Airlines services, two daily Thai Airways services and significant Qantas and Air New Zealand services.

On the domestic front, Melbourne remains a major centre for Qantas, Virgin Blue, QantasLink, Jetstar, Tiger Airways and Regional Express (REX) services. This allows visitors to use Melbourne as their international gateway.

Among the low cost carriers, Tiger Airways is set to offer Melbourne-Sydney services from July 2009 onwards. Both Jetstar and Tiger Airways have their head offices based in Melbourne and plan to continue to deliver low cost seats into Victoria.

The city is also striving to build upon its reputation as a sports centre. In addition to its hosting of the annual Grand Slam tennis tournament the Australian Open, the city is making o ne of the world’s top sporting stadiums, the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) open for external events. The stadium was used for a welcome cocktail reception for more than 2,000 ATE delegates

This year’s ATE attracted 304 international buyers from 245 companies as well as 15 Aussie Specialists in the Asia-Pacific and Middle East region, and 330 buyers from 217 companies as well as 39 Aussie Specialists in North America and Europe.

The largest contingent of buyers was from China, a total of 55 companies and 70 delegates, the second year the Asian giant has dominated the buyers. A total of 22 buyers cancelled, all of them from Singapore, largely due to an advisory on non-essential travel to Victoria issued by the Singapore government in the wake of reports related to swine flu in Melbourne.

Comments are closed.