Small city packs a punch

A massive city transformation along with a prodigious biomedical ambition is making associations and event organisers take Adelaide seriously

The square-mile city centre of Adelaide packs in various business events, commercial and entertainment infrastructure

The city centre of Adelaide is undergoing a metamorphosis, arming itself with an advanced biomedical city, new and upgraded public spaces, and enhanced event and tourism infrastructure along River Torrens as part of a A$6 billion (US$4.5 billion) redevelopment of the Adelaide Riverbank precinct.

The square-mile city centre of Adelaide packs in various business events, commercial and entertainment infrastructure

Although work is still in progress – the last of the entire project is expected to complete in 2023 – it has already attracted health science associations and event organisers specialising in this sector. In 2015 and 2016, Adelaide will host 45 health science conventions, a majority of which are association-led. And according to Damien Kitto, CEO of the Adelaide Convention Bureau, 40 to 50 per cent of global events headed for Adelaide today and in the near future are health science based.

A large part of the credit goes to Adelaide BioMed City, one of the three precincts within the redevelopment project.

Kitto explained: “We have been attracting (many) international medical conventions by virtue of the BioMed City, the largest biomed precinct in the Southern Hemisphere, and of the many clinicians and researchers here who are providing rich content for Adelaide to bid for and win medical events.”

Emphasising the BioMed City’s significance, Marco Baccanti, chief executive of government agency Health Industries South Australia, said that “for the first time we now have (facilities that) combine the entire value chain, starting from academic and scientific research at South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI)” and it will “bring about a combination of academic and clinical research, training, therapy for patients, and business activities”.

Since coming into operation in 2013, SAHMRI has helped to bring several health science association conventions to Adelaide by offering to secure high-level speakers for the programme, organising site visits for delegates, drawing national and international attendees to the convention, and writing letters of support to the international organising committee that extol the scientific strengths of its departments, shared Steve Wesselingh, executive director of the facility.

Meetings that were supported by SAHMRI included the 9th Annual Scientific Meeting of the International Society of Cardiovascular Pharmacotherapy in November 2014 and the Asia Oceania Conference on Obesity coming up in October 2017.

Some SAHMRI departments are also proactively courting events. SAHMRI’s Wellbeing and Resilience Centre, for example, brought the fifth Australian Positive Psychology and Wellbeing Conference 2016 to Adelaide in September. Some 450 people from around Australia and Asia attended the conference, a result of the Centre’s efforts to forge relationships with peers in Asia.

The Centre’s delegate-boosting efforts also raised Adelaide and South Australia’s profile in the field of positive psychology, which director Gabrielle Kelly believes will drive related research and commercial investments to the state.

She told TTGassociations: “We have a very clear vision about building South Australia as a state of wellbeing and we are supported by the premier of South Australia who is also the co-chair of our strategic leadership group and the chairman of the economic development board. We have very high level of political backing.”

In fact, the strong political backing extends beyond that single field. To grow the state’s biomedical sector, the South Australian government founded Health Industries South Australia and tasked it with attracting global organisations to establish operations in the state for research, commercial activities or manufacturing operations. The agency is also sharing another message on the ground.

Baccanti said: “Part of our message is this: if you plan to conduct conventions for your community of companies, researchers and scientists, it is now the time to do it in Adelaide. (Back then) even people in leadership positions did not see Adelaide as an attractive place for conventions. That perception has changed (because of) the critical mass and the proximity of all the facilities within the BioMed City.”

These facilities are within walking distance of each other, and the BioMed City sits close to the Adelaide Convention Centre, the Adelaide Oval, various business hotels such as InterContinental Adelaide, Stamford Plaza Adelaide and Mercure Grosvenor Hotel Adelaide, as well as a plethora of retail, entertainment and dining options within the city centre. Time saved from avoiding lengthy journeys door to door goes into enabling more activities and learning opportunities for event delegates.

Kitto said: “The city is a square mile, offering great convenience to visitors who can simply walk around or hop onto a free tram that connects the north and south of the city.”

He added that it is possible for one to walk from SAHMRI to the Education and Cultural Precinct on the other end where attractions such as Art Gallery of South Australia sit, in “15 or 20 minutes tops”.

“Furthermore, visitors only need 40 minutes to get to McLaren Vale, 20 minutes to Adelaide Hills and an hour to the world-famous Barossa Valley,” he said.
In addition to Adelaide’s accessibility is its affordability “when compared to other state capital cities around Australia”. Kitto remarked: “Hotel rates, restaurant meals and touring opportunities are priced lower.”

Adelaide Convention Bureau has been highlighting these messages, along with the story of the Adelaide Riverbank precinct redevelopment, at all business and association event trade fairs.

Alec Gilbert, chief executive of Adelaide Convention Centre, said publicity surrounding the city’s redevelopment had led to “renewed interest in Adelaide” and that “enquiries and bookings are going strong”.

A two-day Adelaide BioMed City Showcase hosted by the Adelaide Convention Bureau and SAHMRI in June, which highlighted the emerging health science infrastructure as well as new and existing tourism products to decision-makers from national and international associations, also drew “a strong response from conference and event organisers, with advanced discussions underway with a number of international and national organisations looking to host events in Adelaide”, shared Gilbert.

Roslyn McLeod, managing director of Arinex, an Australian professional conference organiser, agrees that city-wide redevelopments have pitched Adelaide into the spotlight and attracted interest from associations and organisations.

“Promoting the fun side of Adelaide, from the new restaurants coming up in the city to the vineyard tours close by, is also important because associations care about what leisure things their delegates can do while meeting in the destination. Once associations have decided on the content and the right destination for their meeting, the tourism aspect will come into focus,” she said.

For Adelaide to see sustained growth in the associations events business, Gilbert opined that the city needs to “maintain its growing international flight connections to maximise accessibility”, have “continued investments in new hotels and accommodation options, and upgrading of existing hotels”.