What does the Sunshine Coast have in common with New Orleans and Amsterdam? In 2015, the Sunshine Coast joined these two other world-renowned destinations in hosting the premiere global conference for destination marketers. Held each year in the United States, Europe and Australia since 2009, the Sunshine Coast welcomed the Social Media in Tourism Symposium – 2015 – #SoMeT15AU – to The Events Centre, Caloundra on 22 and 23 July 2015.
A world stage
The Sunshine Coast proved to be a huge drawcard, attracting delegates from national organisations, regional boards and city tourism offices from all states and territories within Australia plus Austria, Belgium, Canada, Fiji, Hong Kong, Netherlands, New Zealand, Solomon Islands, Tahiti, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States.
There were also several locals who ventured forth from Australia Zoo and Sea Life Mooloolaba to meet the delegates. The friendly python, echidna, macaw parrot, a tiny turtle and cuddly koala shared their starring roles. Their appearance caused a sensation, with tweets and Instagram images abounding.
A Love Affair!
#SoMeT15AU attracted delegates from every Australian state and territory plus 12 other countries. They loved the Sunshine Coast so much that they shouted to the world:
• 432 different users tweeting #SoMeT15AU
• 360 tweets per day using #SoMeT15AU
• 1,900,000+ million Twitter reach of #SoMeT15AU hashtag
• 11,900,000+ million Twitter impressions of #SoMeT15AU hashtag
• One very happy conference organiser!
In total, 20 speakers accepted an invitation from the international conference organisers, Destination Think!, to share their destination marketing and social media knowledge at this two-day event.
Among these speakers was Paul Baron from Tourism Victoria who through his presentation “I’m High on WiFi” spoke about the telecommunication access challenges facing tourism bodies and operators, especially in regional areas. He went on to explain how digital marketing requires ever-growing access to increasingly large chunks of data.
The importance of connectivity to the success of tourism is a topic on which the Sunshine Coast is already well informed. It is a major driver in the Sunshine Coast Council’s campaign to bring Australia’s sixth undersea communication cable to the region.
Likewise, this conference could have experienced significant telecommunications challenges. As a social media-focused event with some of the world’s top tourism bloggers, tweeters and posters attending, organisers estimated that up to 600 devices were attached to the WiFi at any one time. Enter the #SoMeT15AU shining knights – Telstra. As part of their event sponsorship they installed special equipment that supplemented The Events Centre’s complimentary WiFi after Business Events Sunshine Coast, Sunshine Coast Council and the venue collaborated with Telstra to access nearby NBN connections.
A live Tweet Wall and the filming of each plenary, coupled with presentations that required internet access and a three-screen set up, made for sophisticated audio visual requirements, which The Events Centre’s in-house team managed impeccably.
The conference kicked off with TripAdvisor’s South Pacific and Australian Destination Excellence Awards and Welcome Reception at the Caloundra Regional Gallery. The exhibition “East Coast Encounters”, in which historical meetings between James Cook’s Endeavour crew and Aboriginal people in 1770 were re-imaged for the exhibit, proved a fantastic talking point. The event also incorporated a welcome to country by a representative of the local Gubbi Gubbi people.
After learning about this Australian history, delegates then had a quintessentially Queensland experience the following night. They were guided by an army of TAFE student volunteers waving “SoMeThing Social” directional banners from their accommodation along the beach foreshore to nearby Happy Valley. Here they attended a beachside dinner as the sun set behind the iconic Glasshouse Mountains.
The event also incorporated other unique aspects of the Sunshine Coast, with international-themed food stalls from the Original Eumundi Markets offering a variety of tasty dishes and beverages by the Sunshine Coast Brewery. A themed beach bar, a large marquee washed in the colours of nature, a fire twirling music show and a Calypso-style steel band completed this unique event experience.