Darwin Convention Centre is bouncing back from the covid pandemic with more energy than ever.
A national medical conference was held at the oyster shell-shaped centre in May and the first international conference in two years is scheduled for September.
At least four more international events will be held next year.
“We’re coming back with energy and confidence,” says General Manager Peter Savoff. “There was obviously a slowdown in business during the pandemic. We used that time to sharpen our game in many ways.
“We have a very good reputation and we’re building on that.”
His hardworking team doesn’t “sell” just the convention centre to conference organisers – it sells the whole of the Top End.
“This is a world-class centre,” says Mr Savoff. “We have great facilities, great food and great staff.
“But we promote the Top End as a package, as an unusual, welcoming, unique place to hold a conference.
“While Darwin may be a smaller, regional destination, we work very closely with the wider tourism industry at trade shows and hunt in a pack.
“This has the double benefit of making conference organisers feel that every aspect of staging a convention in Darwin works together seamlessly”.”
The strategy is obviously working.
Darwin Convention Centre has been ranked sixth in the global AIPC Apex Awards, up from 15th – an extraordinary achievement in one of the toughest industries in the world.
AIPC, which has a membership of 350 convention centres from 43 countries, judges centres by questioning conference organisers about their experience in the Territory.
The response is always overwhelmingly positive.
“We give AIPC a list of conferences and they contact some of the organisers with a long list of questions. We don’t know who they talk to.
“To be named the sixth best in the world is fantastic. We’re punching well above our weight.”
Darwin Convention Centre also won gold at the Australian Tourism Awards for Best Business Events Venue this year.
Conference delegates say that one of the many attractions of the centre is the quality of the food.
Plans to introduce a Seven Seasons degustation menu in honour of the Larrakia recognising seven seasons, rather than just the Wet and Dry, was put on hold because of covid but will go ahead now.
National and international competition for conferences is intense – because the events are great for the economy.
For instance, delegates to the Darwin Convention Centre spend an average of $3400 extra above the standard costs of attending the event.
That was about $60 million a year before covid.
“The amount that the conference industry was worth to the local economy was rising when the pandemic struck and it will rise again now,” says Mr Savoff.
Darwin Convention Centre is optimistic about the future.
“Australian conference organisers are still very wary about going overseas, so we’ll benefit from that,” says Mr Savoff. “And we’ll start winning a lot more international conferences because Australia is seen as a safe destination.
“The future is bright.”