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  • How Rotary Melbourne successfully bid to bring 14,000 Rotary members to town

    August 06, 2023

    Are you part of a local association or member organisation that holds international conventions? Have you ever wondered:

    • How your international head office chooses the destination?
    • How you can bring the event to Australia and what is involved on your end?
    • What benefit there is to your local association to host the convention?

    The Melbourne Convention Bureau (MCB) recently caught up with Mary Berry, Chair of the 2023 Rotary International Convention Host Organising Committee in Melbourne. The Rotary Club in Melbourne was instrumental in bidding and securing the 2023 Rotary International Convention, which attracted 14,000 Rotary members from 120 countries.

    Here is what Mary had to say about their journey.

    Mary, it's been a long, exciting time in the making to bring the convention to Melbourne. How did it first come about?

    Well, back in 2017, the Rotary Club of Melbourne decided to put in a bid to host the 2023 Rotary International Convention, and the initial bid team was formed. We have five Rotary districts in Victoria. There was a representative from each of those districts on the bid team and also other Rotary members who had an interest and something to contribute to the bid team.

    The bid was pulled together and submitted to Rotary International. And when Melbourne was announced as the winning city, the bid team transformed into the Host Organising Committee (HOC). This meant we were there to support our international team from the local perspective and make that local contribution. I joined the committee in 2019. Then in 2020, I was appointed as formal Chair of the HOC and we've worked on planning this event ever since. 

    Why was forming a bid team so important and how did MCB support you during the bidding phase?

    MCB nominated a representative to be on the bid committee, which was absolutely essential. Because having that connection to MCB and that level of commitment demonstrated to Rotary International that they were in for the long haul.

    We also had a lot of support from the Victorian Government. Plus letters of support from organisations connected to the bid, such as Skybus, the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (MCEC) and Melbourne & Olympic Park's Rod Laver Arena.

    The Victorian Government signed a letter, the City of Melbourne got behind it. So we had everybody and anybody who had anything to do with Melbourne get behind the bid - explaining how they would support the convention, what they would be doing to make it happen, and what they would be contributing to make it all happen.

    That support was absolutely crucial to getting Rotary International to accept the bid and appoint us as the winning city.

    When the bid committee became the Host Organising Committee, the MCB representative continued on in the role. That link was extremely important and valuable, particularly for Rotary International to see again that level of commitment.

    MCB's representative was able to negotiate the contracts, the support agreement and arrangements. For example, how to channel that support to provide that huge vibe to the whole convention once it came to Melbourne.

    Rotary international convention opening ceremony in Melbourne 2023

    What benefits did the Rotary Club of Melbourne gain by winning the bid?

    From a local perspective, it helped us showcase Rotary and what Rotary does. That Rotary is an international organisation and we have people from all around the world that will come to our city to hear from other Rotarians. To be inspired and to learn from other Rotarians.

    Having that many Rotarians in the city at one time helped the Rotary Club of Melbourne to grow its membership and appeal to a whole range of different people. People who may have wondered, what is Rotary? What do they do? This convention has helped us put Rotary on the map in Melbourne and regional Victoria and hopefully in Australia.

    It has been a great promotional thing for us locally, for Rotary and the great work we do, the humanitarian work we do, and the projects we do across the city. Things like providing supplies for people who might have experienced homelessness, cleaning up the Yarra River, and providing programs like the Night Nurse Program.

    Rotary members doing volunteer work in Melbourne

    How did MCB support your Host Organising Committee during the planning stages?

    MCB supported the HOC throughout the whole planning process for the event. They were always on the end of a phone or email providing advice and guidance.

    A big part of the HOC's role during the planning stages is to showcase Melbourne and promote the destination. That was our job for the first 12 months - to get delegates and Rotarians around the world interested and fascinated with Melbourne. MCB really helped to make that happen. Without MCB, we couldn't have done it as well as we did.

    When we were looking for marketing and promotional material, MCB designed different concepts for us. For example, at the prior international convention in Houston, we promoted the event for the first time. Through MCB, we got a fantastic design for our booth to show how Melbourne looks and scenes from around regional Victoria. MCB designed them and got them ready for us.

    MCB even provided us with a koala suit! We had a Rotarian get into the koala suit and parade around Houston and that was a huge seller. People just couldn't resist this cute koala.



    All the things MCB provided - marketing material, promotional material, videos - any time we wanted anything, MCB provided it. It was just a wonderful relationship and MCB certainly helped us to continue to promote the convention and showcase Melbourne.

    What involvement did the Local Host Committee have with promoting pre and post convention travel ideas?

    We had a lot of people calling us or emailing us asking, 'where can I go, what can I do, what can I see?' 

    We partnered with a tourism company called RNX and they put together over 40 tours, featuring many of MCB's Partners,  that we could promote on our website.

    If delegates wanted to book tours through the HOC, they could go to our website and all those packages would come up, tailored for people attending the convention. We had half day tours, full day tours, even trips interstate. 

    We made every kind of tour possible. 

    Rotary members posing for camera in Melbourne

    What would you tell other local chapters or organisations considering bidding for an international convention in Melbourne?

    Well, holding an international event in Melbourne, is a big, exciting thing to do.

    We found the resources, support and commitment of MCB one of the key things that enabled us to develop and deliver the winning bid.

    MCB can bring everybody together to work with the HOC and provide all the resources that are needed. They're always there, a phone call and email away, and what MCB brought to us certainly helped us to deliver and be the successful winning bid.

    Interested in finding out more about bidding with the Melbourne Convention Bureau?

    Reach out to the team to start a conversation or find out more about bidding with MCB.