SYDNEY GEARS UP FOR 2000 OLYMPICS An expected 150,000 international visitors--and hundreds of groups--will be in Australia for the Sydney 2000 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games, and the Australian tourism industry is gearing up for its greatest marketing opportunity ever.

As of February 1998, the Sydney Convention and Visitors Bureau (SCVB) had gained $118.4 million of business for the year 2000, and is currently pursuing an additional $13.8 million worth. The SCVB now has online an Olympics Database to answer companies' inquiries regarding the availability of products, services, and facilities. Meeting executives can access the SCVB's network of more than 500 suppliers and find out information on the availability and booking of venues and accommodations in Sydney during the Olympics.

In response to an increasing interest in holding special events-- including corporate functions and product launches--in parks, beaches, and other open areas in Sydney, the SCVB also recently published the Guide to the Use of Sydney's Public Spaces for Special Events. The guide includes details on restrictions, fees, capacity, amenities, and emergency services.

The bureau also recently began a three-day Corporate Hospitality Training Course, which it will run through the year 2000. Graduates will be placed on a database available to the Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (SOCOG) and Sydney's destination management companies and tour operators to fulfill their staffing needs.

Among the many infrastructure improvements throughout the city is a $57 million expansion to the Sydney Convention & Exhibition Centre, scheduled for completion in 1999; a 15-minute rail link being developed between Sydney Airport and the city; an $800 million upgrade of the airport's international and domestic terminals; a $167 million redevelopment of the Ansett Australia Airlines passenger terminal (Ansett is the official Olympic carrier); and a $6.5 million facelift to the Sydney Opera House.

Contact Philippa Askham at 61-2-9331-4045 for more information.

EUROPEAN CVBs WEB-DRIVEN, SAYS STUDY Did you know that the average age of a European convention bureau is only 11 years, with an average budget of $300,000, and a staff of six? Those are among the findings from a survey of 90 European CVBs conducted by Christian Mutschlechner, director of the Vienna Convention Bureau. Mutschlechner also found that fewer than 40 percent of the surveyed CVBs have housing bureaus, while 35 percent offer Professional Congress Organizer (PCO) services.

Extremely interesting, says Mutschlechner: "Two out of three of the bureaus have a homepage on the Web. Thirty-five percent of a bureaus' leads come from its homepage, while the rest of its Internet use is mostly geared toward client contact."

Of the CVBs responding to the survey, 70 percent represented a city bureau, 17 percent a regional, and 12 percent a national. Fifty-eight percent of the responding bureaus were also part of a national tourist office.

A vast majority of the respondents (89 percent) said they target corporate meetings, and 78 percent seek business from the incentive sector. Seventy percent focus on bringing in product launches, while 69 percent said they go after exhibitions.

According to Mutschlechner, financial support for European CVBs comes from local or national government institutions as well as from a CVB's members.

HAWAII CONVENTION CENTER: OPEN FOR BUSINESS Under a light mist wafting from the nearby Koolau Mountains, 500 guests watched Hawaii Gov. Benjamin Cayetano perform the ceremonial untying of the lei for the Hawai'i Convention Center's grand opening in June. The sprinkling was welcome: In Hawaii, rain is considered an auspicious sign for important events.

For the Islands, this was certainly one of the most important events in recent history. After 14 years of debate and on-again off-again planning, the $350 million convention center's doors are open. And Hawaii finally is a player in the market for major meetings.

"Here we come!" exclaimed Sandra Moreno, vice president for meetings, conventions, and incentives at the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau. "Look to Hawaii to emerge as a very significant and very, very serious business market," she predicted.

The center transforms Hawaii's niche overnight, according to Moreno. The biggest ballroom in the state used to be the Hilton Hawaiian Village's 25,000 square feet. Now it's the new center's 36,000-square-foot ballroom. Hawaii used to lack significant exhibition space. Now there's a 200,000-square-foot hall. Previously, Hawaii's meeting capabilities were not especially high-tech. Now the new center boasts wall-to-wall fiber-optics, can hook up 400 computers at once, and conducts translations in up to 17 languages simultaneously.

Moreover, the center's architecture, rooftop landscaping, and operating style are intended to be uniquely Hawaiian, added general manager Dick Walsh. Combined with the year-round balmy climate, this center will "stand out from the crowd," said Walsh, who comes to Hawaii after serving as general manager of the Los Angeles Convention Center for the past 23 years.

As of early June, about 60 groups had booked space at the center between now and 2010, with attendance varying from 400 to 30,000. During the grand opening week alone, five bookings were either made or announced, Moreno said.--John M. Black

NASSAU/PARADISE ISLAND CONVENES MEETING PLANNER ADVISORY BOARD The Nassau/Paradise Island Meeting Planner Advisory Board convened in June in Nassau, Bahamas for its third-ever meeting. The board of meeting executives from around the nation was created last May in a joint effort by the Bahamas' Ministry of Tourism and the Nassau/Paradise Island Promotion Board to get feedback on how they can improve the destination.

"With the increased investment in hotels and in the general infrastructure, there is definitely a renewed interest in the Bahamas as a destination," says Michael Rigg, executive director of the Nassau/Paradise Island Promotion Board. "Having this advisory board helps us understand how we can make our destination more inviting to meeting and incentive groups."

Since its second meeting last December, members of the advisory board have noted improvements that will make Nassau a more attractive destination. "Over the past six months a visitor welcome center has been created in the port, the new international airport terminal is a dramatic improvement over the old one, and it is now easier to bring materials in through customs," says Karyn M. Altman, director of sales for McGettigan Partners. "I like seeing that as a result of our work on the board it will be easier and more enticing to operate meetings and incentives in the Bahamas."

According to Rigg, the promotion board has offered financial backing to a Bahamas Air training program, as well as to research on making the national carrier's image more professional. "We act on the suggestions of the advisory board members to the best of our ability," Rigg says. "It's not always a bed of roses, but we have to be aware of our shortcomings and this is the best way of realizing them."

The meeting executives on the board are also equally committed to bettering the quality of the meeting industry in the Bahamas. "For the past three months, members of the advisory board have been coming to Nassau every two weeks to prepare nine convention services managers for the CMP examination," says Rigg. "They volunteered to do this--which shows their devotion."