Flexible, safe and refreshed: How Sydney venues evolved during COVID-19
Over the last year, many venues have taken the opportunity during quieter times to improve and refine their offering, giving business event organisers even more value for money.
From its iconic harbour to world-class hotels, restaurants and venues, Sydney has always topped the charts when it comes to hosting business events. Whether it’s an intimate networking meeting or industry-wide conference, there’s guaranteed to be a perfect fit for your size and budget. Many Sydney favourites have used the time during the pandemic to reinvigorate and reinvent, with a focus on adding more value for business event organisers of all kinds – and, as the restrictions continue to ease, there’s never been a better time to get organising.
Refreshed venues prioritising safety and style
Even when non-essential services across the country needed to close in March 2020, Sydney venues stayed busy. While visitors were absent, improvement projects pressed ahead where they could so that the city and state could come back strong once allowed to do so.
“We have continued to invest in our fleet – our flagship vessel MV Sydney 2000 has been stylishly renovated and refitted with a contactless ordering system that guests access via a QR code on their mobile phones,” explains Nicole Friedler, Director of Sales Charters at Captain Cook Cruises.
The Australian National Maritime Museum has also capitalised on the forced downtime, using the visitor-free period to bring new life to classic business event spaces and, like Captain Cook Cruises, bookings can be made without the premium usually attached to a new venue.
“We’ve used this time to refurbish one of our more popular venues to make it weather protected,” says Adam Sherar, Business Development Manager – Endeavour Voyaging. “The Ben Lexcen Terrace was completed in late 2020. It has really helped us come out this side of COVID with something new to reinvigorate interest and imagination.”
These outdoor venues are increasingly popular, with Jay Yip, General Manager – Tourism Trade Development at Trippas White Group, explaining that improved open-air spaces are allowing venues to offer the benefits of face-to-face networking in a COVID-safe environment.
“It’s a different approach where we can fulfil the concerns of our corporates so that their delegates can reconnect back with each other,” he says, adding that his all-weather outdoor spaces like Terrace on the Domain and Botanic House have been reconfigured especially. “We have created new alfresco dining [products] which can be done on a corporate level with outdoor picnic-type options for smaller [corporate] functions.”
A flexible approach to business events
It’s not just venues that have undergone a change. The ways in which events are being designed and offered to businesses has adapted too.
“As a dining venue, our events have been tailored for a more flexible approach, especially with the deposits,” says Yip. “Trippas White Group has been offering a guaranteed full return on any deposits for events booked from the end of last year into 2021… for any reason.”
“With the Museum, we knew that we needed to change tact, become more agile and offer new products,” adds Sherar. “We took the opportunity to streamline our pricing structures into flexible packages. It's much more straightforward. Where we can, we’re trying to make it easier for the consumer to host their event.”
Another layer to this is the Museum’s unique offering as a cultural institution, and Sherar’s team have been building this into their events more and more as a further point of difference.
“Where we can, we'll always try and build what our assets are – our collection – into the events that we offer,” he says. “We're not just a room, we have so much to share.”
For Captain Cook Cruises, the pandemic has created the opportunity for a shift in focus and the creation of an entirely new business model, which is proving extremely popular with local business event organisers.
“We had to turn our business into something the local Sydney market wants to experience, so we created Captain Cook Cruises Harbour Bar & Restaurant,” says Friedler.
Instead of a fixed lunch and dinner cruise, Captain Cook Cruises now operates a non-stop schedule from 12–10:30 pm with 90-minute stops at King St Wharf and Circular Quay. Guests can board and disembark at their leisure throughout the day, giving organisers of smaller business events a unique opportunity for an affordable yet elegant harbour cruise.
“It’s proving popular with corporate groups looking for corporate parties and team events,” adds Friedler. “Pricing is competitive and flexible contracts can be negotiated to minimise risk associated with possible restrictions.”