Spice Magazine sits down with East Hotel’s General Manager Todd Handy – a Canberra local – to discuss all the exciting things happening in the capital city and why it’s the hot spot to host your next group.
What are some of the exciting developments happening in Canberra?
These days it seems like there are always exciting things happening in Canberra. Canberra has passionate people creating passionate opportunities. We have amazing experiences opening all the time, from new restaurants and retail precincts to visitor (and local!) experiences such as exploring Lake Burley Griffin on drive-your-own motorised boats. There are family-friendly events opening and becoming more regular, such as open air cinemas, the National Botanic Gardens new “Treehouse Playground”, market events all over town (Handmade Markets, Kingston Markets, EPIC Markets, Hall Markets, Noodle Markets,
Nightfest). We continue to see local families and businesses invest or re-invest heavily in new development in Canberra, which reinvigorates life into a variety of areas throughout Canberra, spawning new, smaller boutique businesses. Within the last year, we at East Hotel converted a space in the hotel to our largest, most technologically advanced meeting room – which has subsequently become our most popular event space. On the back of the popularity of our food and drink offering at Joe’s Bar, we decided to convert another space into a 120+ seat Italian restaurant, Agostinis, serving fresh house-made pasta and pizza. We cater for our events and conferencing out of Agostinis and everything is unique, fresh and amazing and the response we’ve had from new and loyal clients has been worth celebrating.
What are some of the major drawcards that Canberra can offer the MICE industry that other cities cannot?
Canberra has the soul of a small town. Locals you meet here have pride and passion for this amazing region. This takes the creativity and service which visitors experience to a whole different level. Combine this with the fact that we are ‘actually’ a small town and it’s easy to have collaboration of venues. It’s quick and easy to get around and therefore provide access to: wineries within minutes of anywhere, world class cycling and MTB facilities, bush reserves with easy to see wildlife, science and technology centres, microbreweries, Canberra Glassworks, museums and world class Universities. We also have all of the Parliamentarians here for about 40 weeks of the year (most don’t actually live here, you know!) to add value to dinners and conferences.
In addition to Lonely Planet rating Canberra as the 3rd best city in the world to visit, a recent ABS poll proved Canberra is the most open-minded, inclusive city in Australia with the last “yes” vote. Canberra just exudes love!
Does East Hotel have any plans for 2018 to attract more business events/conferences?
Yes! But your readers will have to buy me a few drinks to get those secrets out of me… (and I drink the good stuff!)
Why should event planners bring their delegates to Canberra?
Canberra is fresh and dynamic – we have so many great things to do here and the locals are happy to share their love for it. Industry colleagues work together in Canberra because we want to bring visitors here and share the experiences. Many of Canberra’s hotels, drinking, dining and entertainment venues are actually locally owned so you’ll see the local passion play through in so many of your experiences. We have easy access to information, key decision makers (Parliamentarians, industry organisations, lobby groups, Canberra Business Chamber, me) and amazing venues to hold events at – not only the big landmark venues but more boutique, bespoke venues as well.
Anything else you would like the industry to know about?
While there has been a lot of change in Canberra and the region recently, expect a lot more to come. There is so much development occurring and excitement for the region that venues are filling up fast…so book now! The booking tip is to book on weekends and non-Parliament sitting weeks if you don’t need the resources that the federal government can offer. These are usually when you’ll find our most economical accommodation rates – hello weekend getaway! If it all seems a bit much to do on your own, we have a group of equally passionate friends at the Canberra Convention Bureau who can help provide a few guided options. Otherwise, I’ll see you at EAST!