By JAMES WILKINSON AT AYERS ROCK RESORT
Voyages Indigenous Tourism’s new AUD$10 million Uluru Meeting Place centre will hold its first event on September 21, 2012, an addition that is set to bring significant business to the company’s Ayers Rock Resort.
Being built by leading Australian construction and fitout firm ISIS, Uluru Meeting Place is the first major project to be completed at Ayers Rock Resort since its purchase by the Indigenous Land Corporation (ILC), owners of Voyages, in May 2011 and the September opening coincides with the completion of an extensive refurbishment at the company’s Sails in the Desert Hotel.
Voyages Indigenous Tourism’s Executive General Manager of Sales, Marketing and Distribution, Ray Stone, said Uluru Meeting Place would feature two ballrooms, one capable of hosting 420 theatre-style and the other 320 theatre-style, with the first event to be held in the smaller room on September 21.
He said the remainder of the centre would be handed over from ISIS on October 24, three weeks before the official opening in mid-November.
Stone told HM expectations were high for bookings at Uluru Meeting Place, following significant interest from PCOs and event organisers during the construction period.
“We are expecting the conference market will go from 4 per cent to 15 per cent of our total business,” he said.
With a capability of 740 delegates and the property’s 700-room inventory which can sleep up to 1400, Ayers Rock Resort can now target the popular sole use segment for conferences and that’s an area Stone said there had been solid interest in.
“The feedback from PCOs and event organisers is this creates a new option for them,” he said.
Stone said a perfect sized group booking would be between 175 and 200 rooms, meaning most delegates would then be able to be accommodated at Sails in the Desert Hotel, which is nearing the completion of a $20 million refurbishment to bring the property back up to an international 5-star standard.
All rooms, suites, lobby, reception and general areas have been refurbished, while new restaurants, bars and an art gallery have been added – a project also undertaken by ISIS.
“That’s enabling us to position this as a very good 5-star hotel with a new conference centre,” he said.
Alongside the refurbishment of Sails in the Desert and the new Uluru Meeting Place, Voyages recently began offering a suite of free Indigenous guest experiences, including art classes, garden walks, performances by the Wakagetti dance troupe, and spear and boomerang throwing lessons.
Voyages has also placed a strong emphasis on Indigenous employment and training at the resort, with the first intake of students at the National Indigenous Training Academy set to graduate in November, while Indigenous employment numbers have skyrocketed from just two in May 2011 to 130 at present.
Stone said the company was aiming for 50 per cent Indigenous employment by 2018.