CANBERRA is undergoing a revitalisation, with more hotels, new developments and a focus on bringing in business events. The national capital has welcomed a record number of international visitors for the year ending March 2018, and international visitors are spending more time and money when they stay.

“Market demand is incredibly strong and the bureau is well on track to achieve the target of $52 million in economic contributions annually,” said Michael Matthews, the CEO of the Canberra Convention Bureau. “We’re also seeing real confidence in the accommodations sector with multiple hotel developments underway and increases in experiences in nature, food, wine and unique venues.”

Statistics released by the ACT Government showed that for the year ending Mar 2018, the number of international overnight visitors climbed to 248,428, a 15.8% increase from the previous year. China remains Canberra’s largest source market at 18.4% of international visitors, followed by the US (9.5%), United Kingdom (8.9%), New Zealand (7.1%) and India (4.8%).

To cater to increasing numbers of visitors, Canberra’s accommodation sector has invested in expanding its room capacities, with Matthews confirming the city is seeing “unprecedented growth” in development and will welcome almost 20 new hotels in the next two years. Many of the properties will be linked to the newly renovated National Convention Centre via light rail, commencing in late 2018.

One of the new properties is a $15 million development by Sandran Property Group which will see an existing commercial office building transformed into an 84-room Quest Apartment Hotel when it opens for business in early 2019. The city’s second Quest property, it will be located between Canberra Centre, Glebe Park and the National Convention Centre.

“As Australia’s capital, Canberra is bustling with government workers, conventions and corporate meetings,” said Quest general manger — growth, James Shields. “The public sector generates a significant proportion of economic output and contributes to a sizeable proportion of travel, with over 30% of trips generated being for business travel.

“Quest Canberra City Walk will cater to the increased demand for corporate accommodation in this expanding hub,” he said.

The property’s ground floor will be upgraded to house reception and the lobby, while the existing mezzanine will be reconstructed with a new entrance and stairwell to service a business lounge and conference facilities. In addition, the hotel will feature studio, one and two-bedroom apartments, onsite parking and a gym.

The Canberra Convention Bureau is also working to support one of its strongest markets — the academic sector — by employing a director of international bidding.

“Thisplatformwill enable the bureau ground-up access to some of the most widely travelled and globally engaged university academic staff in Australia,” said Matthews.

He said that the business events market continued to see demand across association and corporate sectors, and through PCOs.

To continue Canberra’s development, the bureau plans on “balancing strong national demand with goals to grow international meetings, that support daily direct air access through Canberra Airport withSingaporeAirlines and Qatar Airways”.

Matthews also added that the bureau was seeing its work in developing corporate incentives paying off, as it delivered high-yield groups with shorter lead times.

This year, Canberra plans to host Rome: City and Empire at the National Museum of Australia in conjunction with the British Museum from 21 September; along with the commemoration of the Centenary of Armistice from 5 October – 11 November at the Australian War Memorial, where an installation of 62,000 knitted red poppy flowers will be placed on the Memorial’s grounds. Also, Love + Desire will be on at the National Gallery of Australia from 14 December until 28 April 2019.

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