1970s: Sydney’s popularity on the rise
In many ways, the 1970s was a tumultuous and revolutionary decade.
Women and other minority groups continued to fight against inequality. The environmental movement picked up steam. Antiwar protests grew exponentially. And oil crises impacted economies around the world.
At the same time, Apple Computer Company was founded. Flairs, sideburns and platform shoes were all the rage. Stephen Hawking showed us that black holes emitted radiation. And if you were alive at the time, it’s likely you owned a Pet Rock.
For Sydney and the Bureau? Things were just getting started.
Sydney opens up to the world
In May 1970, Queen Elizabeth II traveled to Australia to open the new purpose-built international terminal at Sydney’s Kingsford Smith Airport. With the first 747 touching down – operated by Pan American Airways in October that year - it became clear that Sydney had cemented its role as the country’s gateway to the world. That year, 35 international meetings were set to come to Australia with around 16,000 delegates.
It was in 1971 that the first global meeting bid was won by the Bureau and held in Sydney – the Conference of the American Society of Travel Agents. Welcoming over 2,200 delegates, it represented the Bureau’s and Sydney’s first test in high-level bidding and hosting.
In 1973, Her Majesty came back to Australia to open the Sydney Opera House. While it was a design that generated plenty of local controversy, it took the world by storm. Destined to become one of the 20th century’s most iconic buildings, and World-Heritage listed, the Opera House on the harbour was also an important drawcard for bringing conference and incentive events to Sydney.
On a social, cultural and political level, Sydney’s ever-more global outlook meant significant changes. We witnessed further progress on Indigenous Australian rights, the replacement of the former “White Australia” Policy with open multiculturalism and, in 1978, the first Mardi Gras was held – which has since flourished into one of Australia’s most famous and well-loved events, bringing thousands of visitors to Sydney to join in the celebrations.
A new focus and a new name
With strong support from the City of Sydney and Tourism New South Wales and incredibly committed volunteers, the Bureau upped its efforts during the decade to better understand how convention and visitor bureaus around the world were succeeding.
Representatives were sent overseas to study how counterparts were operating in San Francisco, Chicago, New Orleans and San Diego. They examined how Bureaus were proactively marketing to attract conventions, as well as their membership development techniques to support the business model. This ‘finger on the pulse’ approach driven by both industry best practice and customer needs forms the basis of Sydney’s winning bidding formula to this day.
That same year, ‘Sydney, Host of the South Pacific’, changed its name to the ‘Sydney Convention and Visitors Bureau’ to reflect the increased focus on marketing.
With international visitors (business and leisure) to Australia topping 790,000 per annum, 495,000 of whom visited Sydney, this new direction was a smart move – particularly as the 1980s were just around the corner, bringing with it an incredible boom in the business tourism sector.