How Melbourne hosted 14,000 delegates from 120 countries
July 03, 2023
In May 2023, the Melbourne Convention Bureau (MCB) hosted the Rotary International Convention (RICON23) – one of the largest gatherings of leaders, thinkers and innovators from across the world.
The huge success of RICON23 perfectly demonstrated Melbourne’s leadership and capability as a global destination for hosting large-scale conventions. Its highly successful delivery is also a prime example of how ‘Team Melbourne’ comes together to welcome exceptionally large conferences to stay, meet and play in the very heart of the city – in this instance – 14,000 Rotarian members from 120 countries.
Below is an overview of the RICON23 mechanics, showcasing how Melbourne delivered - from event infrastructure and sustainability to accessibility and progressiveness.
Courtesy room blocks were secured at almost 70 hotels, many of which were centrally located in the heart of Melbourne, with Rotarians filling close to 37,000 room nights across hotels including Accor, Crown Melbourne and Pan Pacific Melbourne.
The wide variety of hotels catered to all budgets, with properties such as Ibis, Holiday Inn and Novotel through to Pullman, Hilton, Hyatt and Langham.
Convention and event venues
Rotary made use of two major Melbourne event venues for their convention, welcome event and exhibition. Centrally located and convenient to hotel accommodations, their proximity removed the need for Rotarian members to travel miles out of the city each day. Both venues could be easily reached by foot, a short public transport ride, hotel coach pick up, or a convenient RICON23 inter-venue shuttle service.
"Rotary has some very, very specific criteria that we seek in a host city. It's really important to us to know that first of all, we have the infrastructure to support a multilingual, multicultural community coming together. Typically, we have a fairly substantial number of people who are coming to our convention. So we also need to know that there are the services and necessary space in order to host the convention events effectively.
Having the chance to explore the world class facilities at MCEC at Rod Laver Arena, we really felt like Melbourne had ticked those boxes for us very, very easily."
- Shannon Watson, Director of Meetings and Events, Rotary International
Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre
The main RICON23 conference and exhibition was at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, located in the pulsing heart of Melbourne's dining and entertainment district on the banks of the beautiful Yarra River.
Hero welcome event at Rod Laver Arena
The hero welcome event was held nearby at Melbourne & Olympic Parks Rod Laver Arena (also home to the famous Australian Tennis Open). The venue was a pleasant 24 minute walk along the Yarra promenade or could be accessed via the RICON23 inter-venue shuttle service or public transport.
Image: Hero welcome event at Melbourne & Olympic Park's Rod Laver Arena
Hundreds of big and small ancillary events took place in easy-to-access venues across Melbourne throughout RICON23, hosted by individual Rotary chapters from around the world.
Many of Melbourne’s leading venues were engaged, including MCG Events at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, (known worldwide as the MCG), Plaza Ballroom, Eureka89 and Flemington Racecourse (home of the famous Melbourne Cup).
Transport and accessibility
Melbourne’s public transport network handled the influx of Rotarians exceptionally well.
A free hop-on-hop-off inner city tram network enabled Rotarians to easily reach event venues and explore the city. Many of the city’s tram stops are also at ground level, which assisted visitors with accessibility needs to easily board and disembark. The city’s metro train network also made travelling into the convention from outer suburbs straightforward.
Not that many Rotarians needed to catch transport, given the proximity of the venues and how safe and easy it was to walk between them. It’s no wonder Melbourne was just announced Australia’s number one and the world’s number three most liveable city by the annual Global Liveability Index.
Rotary also arranged for daily coach pick ups from hotels for any Rotarians if they preferred that option.
As a city, Melbourne consistently ranks as a global sustainability leader, ranking number one in Australia in the 2022 Global Destination Sustainability Index.
RICON23 immediately benefited by hosting their main plenary and exhibition at the six green-star rated Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, within walking distance from many Rotarian member hotels. While their nearby gala welcome event at Melbourne and Olympic Park was held in the LEED Gold-certified Rod Laver Arena, placing it in the same class as some of the most sustainable and energy-efficient buildings in the world.
Melbourne’s renowned tram network, one of the primary modes of transport for Rotarians, is also 100 per cent offset by renewable energy thanks to Victorian solar farms, with over 400 trams carbon neutral.
Image: Pedestrian bridge across Yarra River to the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre
Melbourne itself is a multi-cultural city with origins in 200 countries and 260 languages and dialects. It’s this melting pot culture that is supremely reflected in the way business event suppliers cater to visitors from all cultural backgrounds.
Whether it be menus or signage in language, access to native speakers or diverse catering options for dietary and cultural backgrounds, large international conventions such as RICON23 can be confident their member needs will be taken care of.
Crown Melbourne is one of the most visited tourism destinations in Australia and an MCB partner hotel for RICON23. Crown Resorts Vice President of Sales Michael Faulkner speaks to their reputation for offering diverse and exceptional hospitality to guests from across the globe.
"As Crown is a fixture on the Australian major events calendar for high profile nights, we regularly host diverse events for over 3,000 people at a time. Our exceptional team at Crown Towers Melbourne is adept to catering for international guests, repeatedly being awarded the prestigious Forbes 5-star rating."
When it came to convention servicing, the city’s ‘Team Melbourne’ approach to RICON23 was highly apparent.
The City of Melbourne rose to the occasion, assisting with ‘Welcome Rotary’ banners to be erected throughout the city and organising extra public transport during RICON23 to manage a higher volume of commuters. They also emailed central Melbourne small businesses and retailers leading up to RICON23, preparing them to provide a warm welcome for visiting Rotarians.
Even a floral bed tribute to Rotary was planted in Melbourne’s Domain Parklands, where visitors could explore 123 hectares of parks, gardens and open spaces.
Meanwhile, MCB got the message out during the convention about all the impressive work Rotary does, securing 135 pieces of earned media across international and national broadcast, online and print media reaching over $2.9 million with an estimated PR value of $1 million.
Proximity of travel options pre and post-convention
One of the standouts for delegates attending conventions in Melbourne is the ease of access to stunning travel experiences in regional Victoria.
Within 60 to 90 minutes of the city, Rotarians could get an authentic taste of Australia, immerse themselves in stunning landscapes and view native wildlife. Easy day trips included everything from journeying along the famous Great Ocean Road, to visiting wineries or native wildlife sanctuaries – even watching thousands of penguins make their nightly migration out of the water at Phillip Island Nature Park.
Image: Phillip Island Nature Park's famous Penguin Parade.
Include Melbourne in your next bid opportunity
"Melbourne Convention Bureau and their partners have been exceptional. We do this event all around the world sequentially every year and I can't tell you what a difference it makes when we have a strong destination marketing organization partner. MCB ticked all of those boxes. They were incredibly knowledgeable, incredibly helpful, incredibly successful in helping to understand what our needs were and delivering on them. They were amazing."
- Shannon Watson, Director of Meetings and Events, Rotary International
The success of RICON23, Melbourne’s infrastructure capability to host large conventions in the heart of the city, sustainability credentials, ‘Team Melbourne’ approach and proximity to nearby cultural, nature and wildlife tourist attractions are just some of the reasons why your organisation should include Melbourne in your next bid opportunity.
Learn more about Why Melbourne and reach out to the MCB team for further information for free business event support.