LEADING speakers from both Australia and the world’s top tourism and visitor experience bodies converged at The Capital Theatre on Monday for Bendigo Next, the city’s first tourism conference for local industry leaders.

TripAdvisor, Melbourne Museum, Visit Victoria and The Urban List, as well as large online success stories and area professionals, were all represented, explaining and giving insight into future trends and markets for the region.

City of Greater Bendigo’s tourism and major events manager Terry Karamaloudis said the event was about how the industry could stay ahead, and what businesses could do to attract further people when events are on.

“There’s a lot in this sector … it’s all about driving new markets in to help support our industry partners and businesses generally,” he said.

“There was a broad range of businesses in attendance, as well as neighbouring councils including Shire of Campaspe, Mount Alexander Shire and City of Ballarat.

“The significance of that is that collectively as regions we can present a stronger and more compelling case to influence visitation away from cities like Melbourne.”

Mr Karamaloudis said the event was well received and hoped it would return, with discussions underway about its frequency, whether annually or biannually.

Qantas’ regional manager Tim O’Callaghan also presented at Monday’s event, ahead of the airline’s take-off between Bendigo and Sydney in less than six weeks.

He told attendees the reason why the city was selected for flights was because of its population, the areas and smaller towns which make up the region, the city’s events scene, as well as attractions.

“Along with the support from the state government and local council, it was important as a destination and something that had been on our radar,” he said.

“It represents a major step for us (Qantas), and also a major step for Bendigo.”

Mr O’Callaghan also informed those present of the Bendigo destination page to be featured on the company’s website, which will provide information about the region to prospective travellers.

Locally, Mr Karamaloudis said industry partners had to help work to create special experiences that can be marketed to encourage people to use the service, and then grow the region’s tourism.

“What is the point of difference, what is going help people jump on a flight from Sydney and two hours later arrive in Bendigo?” he said.

Monday’s presentation came as Qantas this week confirmed to the Bendigo Weekly that several of the first flights for the new service are already sold out, with strong bookings around school holiday periods.

Preparations are increasing ahead of the March 31 commencement, with applications
for ground staff being undertaken by a third-party, while the airline is working closely with both the city and Bendigo Airport team.

The company also confirmed they are progressing with the second location for the Qantas Group Pilot Academy from a list of seven shortlisted cities, of which Bendigo is one, with each destination still in contention.

– Sam Kane