2000s: Sydney shows the world how to put on a show
As the world entered Y2K, some people feared the worst: that a computer bug known as Y2K would launch nuclear missiles and cause planes to fall from the sky. Other people insisted that this thing called Y2K was a hoax, not worthy of a second thought. Still others hedged their bets, packing go-bags with dehydrated food and wilderness survival supplies. So what happened on the stroke of midnight on 1 January 2000? Absolutely nothing! Zip, zero, zilch.
So where did technology take us in this decade? Well, email, the internet and mobile phones became central to our daily lives. Fax machines became obsolete – and print media started to feel the impact of global digitisation. Reality TV rapidly replaced sitcoms, and a cherubic-faced 13-year old Justin Bieber changed music – and hairstyles - around the world. Natural disasters, terrorism and civil wars were becoming an all too common occurrence across the world.
Following aggressive growth, the dot.com bubble burst. Most of the major EU member states began using the new Euro currency, going on to become the second largest reserve currency; and the world hit a period of extreme stress in global financial markets and banking systems.
In Australia, the Federal Government made a formal apology to our Indigenous peoples for past government policies, opening ‘a path for walking together in the future’.
For the Bureau, the decade saw exponential growth and a firm stake placed in the ground as leaders of bidding organisations in the global meetings industry.
THE SID AND OLLIE EFFECT
At the turn of the century all eyes in Sydney were firmly fixed on 15 September when the city would welcome the eagerly anticipated Games of the XXVII Olympiad to its shores. Preparations for the world’s largest event had brought unprecedented infrastructure improvements across the city –new and redeveloped hotels, venues and other facilities all designed to host the greatest show on earth, providing a legacy of wonderful facilities still in use to this day.
As Sid and Ollie – the two official mascots for the event – welcomed almost 11,000 athletes, over 6 million spectators from around the world, 47,000 volunteers, over 16,000 international press; an estimated 3.7 billion people across 220 countries and territories watched over 36 billion viewer hours of Sydney 2000 Olympic Games coverage*. Sydney delivered, and the Sydney 2000 Olympics were declared the best ever.
For the meetings industry, the Games had opened the eyes of the world to a new face for the land down under and the city’s name as one of the world’s best host cities had been made. The welcome mat was out, and the city soon welcomed the company of a series of the world’s biggest health and scientific research conferences: 11th International Congress of Endocrinology 2000, World Congress of the International Organisation of Psychophysiology 2000, World Congress of Cardiology 2002, 11th World Congress of Sport Psychology 2005, World Congress of Neurology - WCN 2005, Radiology International Congress 2007, and everything in between. Sydney was the perfect hostess.
AUSTRALIAN TOURISM HITS NEW HIGHS
Following the success of the Crocodile Dundee movie franchise in the 80s, and Tourism Australia’s successful subsequent Australian marketing campaigns, the 00s built on the Olympics momentum by reviving Australian tourism marketing internationally.
In 2004** the ‘Australia. A different light.’ campaign was launched. This campaign focused on Australia’s natural beauty and iconic animals, featuring a kangaroo bounding in the sun.
By 2006**, tourism marketing campaigns took on a uniquely Australian flavour, with the infamous “where the bloody hell are you?” tagline, one of the most talked about campaigns.
By the end of the decade** Australian marketing campaigns celebrated Australia’s Indigenous culture, named “Come Walkabout”. Australian writer, producer and director, Baz Luhrmann, took on the mighty task of producing a destination campaign. Central to the campaign was the concept of ‘walkabout’ – a uniquely Australian concept that is steeped in traditional Aboriginal culture.
The common thread throughout all of these campaigns was: Australia’s friendly welcome and unique lifestyle. Sydney was becoming known as one of the world’s best and most liveable cities. The word was out: Sydney was a great place to live, work and play; and it knew how to put on a show!
INCREASING INTEREST FROM THE EAST
By the mid-00s, following the success of the 2000 Olympics, interest from Australia’s Asian neighbours, had rapidly escalated. Our close proximity, coupled with Sydney’s stunning beauty and iconic attractions and festivals, made Sydney an attractive option for Asian visitors. This provided the Bureau with the opportunity to look to the region as a source of business growth, opening its first in-market Asian office, the first Australian convention bureau to do so.
Jon Hutchison, CEO 2006 - 2011, said: “The engagement in China was natural. It was natural because foreign companies to China, that is, European companies and American companies, were establishing themselves in China and incentive programs were part of their culture and part of their marketing activity. And that, to us, in our own backyard where we have an advantage, of course; we’re close to the Asian market, that in itself said: here is an opportunity, we need to capitalise on that. So, we stepped out there, opened up offices, and now, of course, it’s been delivering very strong results for many years.”
This proved to be a highly successful move. By the end of the decade, almost 30 per cent of the Bureau’s business was coming from the Asian market.
LEADERSHIP IN FOCUS
By the end of the decade, as the organisation celebrated its 40th Anniversary and Sydney was glowing with the first ever Vivid Light Festival, the Bureau was cementing its position as a global leader in the meetings industry.
No longer happy to be pigeonholed by the naming conventions of its global peers in the meetings industry, the SCVB changed its name to Business Events Sydney – ending its 40-year affiliation with the traditional term, ‘bureau’. This was more than a name change. Sydney was placing a stake in the ground – both domestically and internationally – to signal its point of difference, and singular focus, to the world. Business Events Sydney was a professional services firm focussed solely on winning international business events; those which delivered the most significant impacts. This business was good business for the state of New South Wales, and for government, academia, industry and business, and Australian society as a whole.
But the team at Business Events Sydney knew that in order to continue to grow its leadership and attract even more global meetings of significance to the city – they needed to bring in the big artillery to spread the word to the world. An ambitious plan to enlist the most powerful local networked and influential leaders into the family fold - as volunteer ambassadors for the cause – was born.
In 2009, the organisation launched the Ambassador Program – investing 25 Ambassadors from university vice-chancellors and leading scientists, to renowned researchers and business and community leaders, to work with the organisation to attract global meetings to Sydney. The group proved to be a game-changer for the organisation as it powered into the next decade.
Image credit: Destination NSW, "Olympic Cauldron on the northern end of Cathy Freeman Park, Sydney Olympic Park."