1960s: Australia means business
Much like the rest of the world in the 1960s, Australia was gripped by a state of social turbulence and unstoppable progress.
Free love and flamboyance reigned. Protests and demonstrations were happening all the time. Beatlemania was in full swing. The Boeing 727 debuted. Woodstock came and went. And NASA even landed a man on the moon.
Plus, with commercial flights travelling further and faster, large cruise ships setting sail, and government incentives giving millions of displaced people a direction to go following World War II – Australia was experiencing a remarkable tourism and migrant boom.
It was against this backdrop that the BESydney story begins.
Australia responds to the rise of business tourism
In 1967, in response to this boom, the Australian Government organised a review of its international tourism marketing offers.
The report called for the creation of Convention Visitor Bureaux in Australia’s major cities, much like its counterparts in America at the time, designed to realise the potential business travel – and to unite all the organisations and bodies involved in tourism.
Thus, the Australian Tourist Commission was established in 1967. And in 1968, the New South Wales State Planning Authority released the Sydney Region Outline Plan, which promoted and planned for new centres and growth within the metropolitan area, embracing connections to Newcastle and Wollongong, focusing on development and growth along the rail network.
Sydney welcomes ‘Sydney, Host of the South Pacific’
With the growing popularity and affordability of air travel, airlines such as Pan American World Airways and Alitalia opened offices in Sydney buildings. Shipping lines did the same.
Qantas had been watching international trends too. They had opened the 450-room Wentworth Hotel (now Sofitel Wentworth) in 1966 and had placed orders on four Boeing 747Bs – designed specifically for long-haul flights.
With this growth, it’s no surprise that the Bureau was developed to meet the increasing demand.
In 1969, Sydney’s four major hotel players at the time – Wentworth Hotel, Menzies, Sebel Townhouse, and Carlton Rex – who were running at an average of 90% occupancy – saw the impact and opportunity of this time and joined forces to create the first iteration of the business we know today, then named ‘Sydney, Host of the South Pacific’.
Back then the focus was not on winning conferences. At the time, the Bureau’s initial job was to organise lodging and visitor information for American troops serving in the Vietnam War looking for rest, recreation and new experiences.
It’s in this way that our beginnings are very much tied to the hotel and airline industries.
Global competition for business meetings stars to take off
Meanwhile in Europe, there were similar murmurings as a group of global travel agents established the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) in The Hague in The Netherlands.
This evolution was designed to take advantage of the then-new phenomenon of international association meetings which were being stimulated by the introduction of commercial jet aircraft, and particularly the potentially lucrative medical meetings field.
The unique original idea was to share information between friendly business owners based in different countries to obtain competitive advantage.
Setting the stage for remarkable global meetings
As we neared the 70s, and only in the market for a short time, Australia had attracted 1.1% of the world’s conference market, with Sydney hosting 37% of these.
With 13 international airlines servicing flights to Sydney, the city was now more than just a marvel on the periphery of the world – it was a thriving destination responding to the social, cultural and technological movements happening across the world.
The time was ripe for Sydney to take advantage of the significant changes and progress afoot. And this is exactly what started to happen in the 1970s.