FOR MICE PLANNERS WITH a soft spot for gin, it is now official: South Australia makes the world’s best gin. Called 78 Degrees and created in Nairne, a small township 30 minutes east of Adelaide, the Adelaide Hills Distillery took the top prize at the 2017 American Distilling Institute Awards, held in Baltimore earlier this year.
“It doesn’t get much bigger than this,” said Sacha La Forgia, distillery founder. “There were thousands of entries, and we were awarded double gold in our class, best in category and best international gin. We beat out every other competitor.”
Although few MICE planners choose destinations based solely on the quality of the local gin, the award is symbolic of South Australia’s rapid growth in Australia’s hospitality industry. New hotels, restaurants and bars are sprouting throughout Adelaide, South Australia’s capital city of 1.3 million residents. Urban revitalization projects reflect exciting architectural elements among the city’s performing arts venues, museums and downtown residential and office buildings.
The State of South Australia, 380,000 square miles in size (Texas and Arizona combined), is committed to spending $74 billion on infrastructure, most evident in Adelaide, where construction crews transform the city’s major streets and the River Torrens into scenic, urban landscapes.
Even more important: the South Australian government’s $2 billion investment in Adelaide Riverbank, a downtown convention, entertainment and research precinct dedicated to business meetings and conventions, medical research, educational facilities, the arts and sports.
Riverbank projects include the $148 million, futuristic-looking South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute; new landscaping at the Adelaide Festival Centre and Festival Plaza; a $220 million expansion proposal for the Adelaide Casino; and a just-completed phase one of the $260 million Adelaide Convention Centre expansion.
Adelaide attracts medical conferences partly because the Adelaide Convention Bureau forged a close relationship with SAHMRI, bringing in medical meetings, conferences and conventions to this sun-splashed city on Australia’s south coast. Adelaide also appeals to MICE groups involved in minerals and energy, bioscience, defense, aerospace, education, advanced manufacturing and aquaculture.
With the Adelaide Convention Centre, nearby medical research centers and a university campus all within close proximity, Adelaide’s fully integrated Riverbank Precinct now offers exceptional benefits for convention visitors. Within a short walk are hotels, restaurants and attractions, with a free tram to move visitors around. It also doesn’t hurt that Adelaide ranks as one of the most affordable state capitals in Australia, with a wonderful Mediterranean climate and claims that the most popular city venues are never more than 20 minutes away from each other.
The Adelaide Convention Centre completed new construction this summer and now spans a large section of the southern side of the River Torrens. More than 90 feet above the riverbank, the new East Building reaches over the boardwalk to provide expansive views toward Adelaide Oval and other iconic structures. With the world’s largest rotating seating platform, featuring two 54-foot revolving drums holding up to 320 people each, the new East Building can be reconfigured for events, conferences and concerts within minutes.
The first major conference at the expanded ACC will be the 68th International Astronautical Congress, meeting this month. The world’s largest annual gathering of space professionals expects to attract more than 3,000 astronauts, heads of space agencies, engineers, scientists, innovators, legal and policy specialists and students.
“New technologies are the hallmark of the expansion which sets a new benchmark in convention center design and functionality,” said Alec Gilbert, chief executive, Adelaide Convention Centre. “The delegate experience at the ACC is also more personal than many other convention centers, and being part of a relatively compact and highly accessible city makes the delegate experience more relaxed and enjoyable.”
The redeveloped Adelaide Oval, a sports and entertainment venue, also makes its mark as a function venue. It hosted its first event in 2014 for the Australian and New Zealand Sports Law Association conference and remains a sought-after site for sports and MICE events. The new stadium includes a leading-edge audiovisual system, hospitality suites, open boxes, bars, terraces and food courts.
SKYCITY Adelaide Casino opened in 1985 within the heritage-listed, 1920s-era Adelaide Railway Station. A proposed expansion awaits final approval. The $260 million building will sit next to the original rail station, connected by a glass atrium, and will include signature restaurants, an 80-room deluxe hotel and world-class gaming and entertainment facilities. The building will feature layered, wav-linear glass presenting a shimmering, luminous quality and will surely attract MICE groups.
Business tourism has become an important aspect of South Australia’s revenue stream. In the last financial year, the Adelaide Convention Bureau won business worth $157 million of economic benefit for the state, boasting more than 50,000 visiting delegates and 220,900 bed nights for the city.
Major MICE hotel venues in Adelaide’s Central Business District include the Hilton Adelaide (374 guestrooms/17 meeting rooms); the InterContinental (367/11); the Stamford Plaza (335/11); and the beachfront Stamford Grand (220/12), 20 minutes from the CBD with views of the ocean, city and Adelaide Hills.
Adelaide’s capacity for hotel accommodations continues to grow. In 2018 the 5-star, 245-suite Sofitel Hotel will open downtown, as will the 245-room Holiday Inn Express, a 240-room Lester Hotel and a 200-room Aloft Adelaide. Starwood also plans a Sheraton hotel in North Adelaide in 2019.
The city is known for its festivals (the Adelaide Festival and Fringe Festival are well-known throughout the country), and its gallery scene is worth incorporating into off-site events. The Art Gallery of South Australia hosts an impressive selection of exhibitions, including the gallery’s collection of Rodin’s bronze sculptures, the largest in the Southern Hemisphere. The Jam Factory is perhaps Adelaide’s best-known art hub, a not-for-profit arts center with facilities in the CBD and nearby Barossa Valley. The venue focuses on ceramics, jewelry, glass and furniture and makes studios available to artists and for group visits.
With UNESCO designating Adelaide an official City of Music, planners should consider including music venues in their agendas. “The UNESCO recognition will help to bring the world of music to Adelaide and also help take Adelaide to the world,” said Douglas Gautier, CEO and artistic director, Adelaide Festival Centre. “Adelaide is a great place for making and enjoying music. The UNESCO recognition will help grow our reputation as one of the world’s significant creative cities. Our city is an exciting and innovative community for musicians and music lovers, and we look forward to building on that momentum with our participation and utilization of international linkages.”
Barossa Valley, a renowned wine-producing region 37 miles northeast of Adelaide, offers interesting offsite MICE venues, including Château Tanunda. This winery within a castle offers a ballroom for 470 in banquet style, a long room seating 80 at one table, plus outside terraces for cocktail events and its own professionally maintained cricket oval with a capacity of 1,500.
With the Adelaide Hills offering a picturesque wine and culinary focus, beautiful hotel accommodations and interesting delegate experiences, it makes a popular daytrip or post-conference visit. The Louise in Barossa Valley offers a professional meeting venue for executive retreats and small incentive groups. All 15 suites feature luxury amenities, private gated courtyards and vineyard views. Its Appellation restaurant is one of Australia’s finest dining destinations. Group events include private hosted wine tastings, vineyard tours, cooking classes and hot air balloon flights.
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