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World Parks Congress delegate numbers double in Sydney

Sydney’s global appeal combined with Australia’s world-class nature and wildlife were key factors that saw the doubling of delegates to 6,000 attendees for the recent International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Parks Congress.
Held from 12 to 19 November, at Sydney Olympic Park, the IUCN World Parks Congress focuses on sharing knowledge and setting the agenda for conserving the world’s natural environment.

Tourism Australia Managing Director John O’Sullivan said Australia’s natural attractions combined with its sophisticated cities, outdoor lifestyle and exceptional culinary offering made it an ideal destination for event organisers and delegates.  

“Australia’s natural environment and wildlife have long been a draw card in attracting visitors from around the world to our country and that includes for events,” Mr O’Sullivan said.  

“The appeal of our natural assets combined with our growing culinary offering, our modern infrastructure and the can-do attitude of our people add to the compelling list of reasons why delegates feel more motivated to attend an event in Australia,” he said.  

Director of the 6th IUCN World Parks Congress, Trevor Sandwith says there was a significant boost in delegate numbers from its last meeting in Durban in 2003, with more than 3,500 international delegates from 170 countries attending the event in Sydney.  

Mr Sandwith believes “the attractiveness of Sydney combined with the progressive program, Australia’s geographic location and the environmental challenges being faced by it and its many Asia Pacific neighbours, all contributed to the higher than expected delegate numbers”.  

“We found a geographical purpose and a thematic purpose, and Sydney is an extremely attractive destination, and people thought this was their chance to combine a visit to Sydney with our congress,” Mr Sandwith said.  

The event, which is held every 10 years, was secured by Business Events Sydney and hosted by Parks Australia and the New South Wales (NSW) National Parks and Wildlife Service, with support from the NSW and Australian Governments.  

Ambassador of the 2014 IUCN World Parks Congress and former head of Parks Australia, Peter Cochrane, who was instrumental in securing the meeting for Sydney, adds further that Australia’s strong global role in environmental conservation was also a strong reason why the country secured the event, with many countries looking to Australia for ideas and action.  

“What we do working with Indigenous people in Australia on conservation through Indigenous protected areas has inspired many other countries to do similar things,” Mr Cochrane said. Additionally, he said Australia’s efforts in marine protection area management – “we have the world’s largest network of marine protected areas” – and cutting edge activity in ecotourism and fisheries were also contributing factors.  

Mr Cochrane cites that the higher than anticipated delegate numbers could also be attributed to the growing understanding by governments and corporations that protected areas benefit the economy.  

 “The importance of gathering the world’s thought leaders in one place to help solve global problems cannot be understated,” said Business Events Sydney CEO Lyn Lewis-Smith.  

“It’s in these forums that ideas are shared, information is exchanged, and discoveries and solutions are born. This is the value of business events and why they are an important part of global economic and social development.  

“Australia has just hosted the G20 Leaders’ Summit to determine the world’s economic growth priorities and actions and now Sydney has played a vital role in setting the agenda and future direction of world nature conservation,” added Ms Lewis-Smith.  

In keeping with the congress themes and subject matter, the event was held at Sydney Olympic Park, about 10 kilometres from the central business district, which was once home to the city’s brickworks, an abattoir and waste area. It now incorporates 430 hectares of parklands, extensive sporting and event facilities, hotels, apartments, and a growing list of corporate head offices.  

The majority of the congress was held within the park at Sydney Showground and its range of venues and spaces with the welcome reception, exhibition, plenaries, workshops and even a final night casual barbecue all hosted on the extensive footprint.  

Prior to meetings, delegates were invited to take guided restoration ecology walks, wetland tours, bird watching tours, or hire a bike for a ride around the precinct.  

Emma Bowyer, General Manager of ICMS Australasia, the PCO company hired to run the congress, said this meeting was like no other they had worked on.  

“IUCN didn’t want a normal conference. They wanted people to make new contacts, to engage, to form alliances, and build a strategy for what they would do when the conference ended. It was an incredible experience,” she said.  

The week-long congress concluded with the unveiling of ‘`The Promise of Sydney’ - a strategy that almost guarantees the implementation of policies that will lead to a better, greener world.

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