Conference. For some people the word itself conjures up images of cocktails, late nights and golf. The reality is that employers expect to see a reasonable return on investment from any expenditure and conferences are no different. People attend conferences to increase their knowledge of a particular topic to benefit their employer. Sometimes that increase in knowledge will come from listening to a presentation and sometimes it will come from networking with people in a similar field. Apart from gaining knowledge from colleagues in the same industry, these networks can be beneficial if you need to draw on a person’s expertise at a later date. While the direct financial benefits to an organisation may not be seen the day after an employee returns from a conference, if they attend with eyes and ears open, the benefits will undoubtedly be there.
One case where you will see direct economic benefits in relation to a conference is by hosting a conference. In the USA, conference hosting is such big business that cities will bid for them (and pay huge fees) in a similar vein to bidding for the rights to host an Olympics. Having attended many Microsoft conferences in the US, where 15,000 people attend for four days, I can understand why there is so much competition in the conference hosting space.
With recent infrastructure additions to Dubbo, we now have the ability to host larger conferences than most regional cities in Australia. One example is at the end of this month, when Dubbo will host the last ever LGA Conference. As of next year, the two associations which have represented 152 NSW Local Government Areas (LGAs) will be joined as one peak body. Future conferences will be held under that banner and my guess is that they will be too large to be held in a regional area.
While everyone within Council circles is excited about the prospect of Dubbo hosting the conference, what does it mean in real terms for the people of our region? Should we be excited or is it just hype? Before we get down to the numbers, I see this conference as a chance for community leaders from 74 different areas of NSW to view Dubbo. Many would have heard of Dubbo and may even have visited at some stage, but the City has changed a lot in recent years – it has ‘grown up’ and now boasts a wonderful balance of essential services, cultural facilities and sporting assets. Not only is this conference a chance to show off Dubbo to our LGA colleagues, but it also provides a real economic injection to Dubbo.
For a start, we will have close to 700 delegates and partners at the conference. Research has shown that one visitor per night directly injects $132 into our economy (accommodation, meals, shopping) – and this is the conservative figure. Based on this research, the minimum three nights that delegates will be in Dubbo will result in a $277K direct benefit to Dubbo businesses. Of course, if you then add the multiplier effect – which ranges anywhere from 1.5 to 2.5 – you will see more than half-a-million-dollars generated for local businesses. If Dubbo gets it right – and Council is doing everything it can to ensure it does – then attendees will be so impressed with the ‘new Dubbo’ that they will want to return with their family and friends. That repeat visitation can deliver benefits to Dubbo for years to come. Remember, attendees to this conference are Councillors and General Managers from 74 Councils in NSW. You could quite easily say that these people are respected leaders in their community and when they return home to talk in glowing terms about the conference, their words will be listened to.
We are doing our best to show off Dubbo’s best features. We are utilising the Dubbo Regional Theatre and Convention Centre for the main components of the conference, but additionally the Archibald Prize exhibition will be viewed at the Western Plains Cultural Centre, a social night will be held at the Old Dubbo Gaol, and the final night will see Kate Ceberano wowing attendees on the savannah at Taronga Western Plains Zoo. In between times, attendees will be transported by courtesy cars and shuttle buses to local shops and motels and we will be providing them with extensive information about Dubbo.
Not only will this conference put Dubbo on the map in LGA circles, but our local economy will reap the benefits now and into the future.
I have told people for years that Dubbo is the friendliest city I have ever seen, so when you see some new faces about at the end of this month, give them a Dubbo smile and don’t miss the opportunity to tell them what a wonderful place we have. Your City will thank you for it.
Clr Mathew Dickerson
Mayor of the City of Dubbo