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M.I.C.E. Venues

 September 18, 2002
Dreamtime: Unique Venue Is Australia's Outback Convention Capital

 One of the Earth's most ancient environments became the focus of attention this month of an international influx representing one of world's most modern species - the business traveller. From September 14th to 18th the newly opened Alice Springs Convention Centre in Australia's Red Centre hosted the Australian Tourist Commission's Dreamtime trade event, named after the spiritual world of Australia's Aboriginal people, whose history extends back between 50,000 and 200,000 years.

ATC's Dreamtime is the catalyst for multi-million dollar investments in Australian business conferences, exhibitions and business incentive events. More than $A40 million worth of incentive travel business was booked for Australia as a result of last year's Dreamtime event.

During this year, The Year of the Outback, Dreamtime is being staged at Alice Springs Convention Centre to capitalise on a surge of interest in business event destinations seen as safe and secure, but exciting and different, with a unique kaleidoscope of ancient environments and timeless culture that draws hundreds of thousands of holiday travellers every year to Central Australia, Australia's Real Outback, and Uluru (Ayers Rock), which is a morning's drive or 40-minute flight away. This year's Dreamtime was attended by about 130 delegates and journalists from all over the world, including the Asia-Pacific, Europe and the USA.

The $A14 million Alice Springs Convention Centre offers international-standard business facilities in a truly unique destination for the business traveller - the true Outback Australia, where land features have been dated back more than 3.8 billion years to be among the most ancient continental crust areas on the face of the Earth.

The Centre, the Northern Territory's first dedicated purpose-built convention centre, is situated at the foot of the 500km-long MacDonnell Range, which was once as tall as the Himalayas. Virtually in the shadow of this ancient range, the conference centre's main plenary room - the MacDonnell Room hosts 1200 guests theatre-style and 780 banquet-style with room for another 500 in the adjacent Ellery Room. Designed on a grid system for maximum versatility, the conference rooms can be rapidly reconfigured to cater for different events, exhibitions or workshops during a conference or to cater for smaller, more intimate gatherings.

The Centre has a full range of advanced technology facilities dedicated to business conventions, conferences, exhibitions, incentives, presentations, functions, symposia and other business events. In the leadup to Dreamtime, the centre demonstrated its technological capabilities with a video link to Paris highlighting the destination to 40 French incentive and convention houses - "Europeans in general and the French and Germans in particular are fascinated by the cultural and natural history of the region. Through Dreamtime we also want to expand that enthusiasm to encompass more of our closer neighbours from New Zealand to throughout the Asia-Pacific," says the General Manager of the Alice Springs Convention Centre, Ms Caroline Angel.

"In addition to having business facilities equal to the best anywhere in Australia, our Convention Centre will immerse people in the total experience of Outback Australia. Instead of just one more convention centre in a resort setting, our facility will satisfy the expanding desire by Australians and international visitors to fully experience our countryís unique culture and natural history" said Ms Angel.

Australia has direct botanical links to the warm and wet earliest stages of the Gondwana timeline during the Jurassic period from 208 to 144 million years ago, during the continental drift that eventually saw Australia separate from Antarctica some 45 million years ago. Flora still surviving in the chasms and canyons surrounding Alice Springs date back to the times before it became a desert to when much of the centre was wet and warm, with vast oceans and forests.

To provide a comfortable base for the exploration of such natural wonders - as well as to cater for business events on a national and international scale - Lasseters Hotel Casino adjacent to the Alice Springs Convention Centre has spent $A20 million to nearly double the number of top quality rooms available adjoining the new Convention Centre, to 140, with another 440 rooms available within walking distance.

In-house facilities are grouped around swimming pool and leisure areas with a gym for fitness training and extensive ground-floor accommodation and lifts to the upper level of accommodation for people with disabilities.

Conferences already booked be held at the Centre include The Brolgas (The NT Tourism Awards), the Year of the Outback Expo and The Australian Local Government Association conference, to name a few.

The Convention Centre was originally instigated as part of the Alice in Ten community development project and expected to take seven years to achieve bookings of 20,000 a year. Upon opening it had already achieved nearly 20,000 bookings extending into 2007, with interest from all over Australia and internationally from companies, associations, professions and groups associated with broad fields such as medical and scientific, industrial, technology, educational, government, agricultural and social sciences. Because Alice Springs is already a major tourist destination (the nearest larger town being 1500km away), the infrastructure and facilities of the town are exceptional for this centre of 28,000 people.

"Alice Springs is a highly developed centre for tourism yet delightfully unspoilt in its warm and welcoming attitude to visitors," says Caroline Angel. "Local DMC's ( Destination Management Company) can organise events ranging from adventurous 4wd and camel safaris through to romantic balloon rides over endless horizons - or a candlelit silver service dinner in the desert under a spectacular star filled sky. And they will do it all with the natural ease of Outback people whose hospitality and kindness to visitors is legendary," said Ms Angel.

The Alice Springs Convention Centre - designed by Canberra architect Tom Keane with a softly rounded and environmentally harmonious profile - is 1.5km from the town centre and within walking distance of the spectacular MacDonnell Ranges, which offer some of the Northern Territory's most awe-inspiring scenery, including Standley Chasm, Ormiston Gorge and Trephina Gorge. In addition to helicopter and 4wd expeditions to the Finke River - the world's oldest riverbed - Uluru/Ayers Rock is easily accessible by air, sealed road or by 4wd hire or safari trips taking in major attractions such as the Glen Helen resort, the Hermansburg Mission, gold mining areas, Aboriginal craft and culture centres, and Kings Canyon with its dizzying clifftop walks and spectacular ground-level adventures.

The Northern Territory Centre Region, a 49,000 sq km area centred on Alice Springs and Ayers Rock/Uluru, attracted a total of 266,000 interstate visitors last financial year and 378,000 international visitors.