BOASTING a diverse economy, Hobart is the business and commercial centre of Tasmania and with a rich history and plenty of culture on offer, it’s little wonder tourist numbers are growing.

Many of Tasmania’s major exporters have headquarters in Hobart with FY10-11 export figures totaling $3.1 billion.

China remains the state’s largest market worth more than $565 million, with exports including zinc and aluminium, copper, iron ore and concentrates, wood and paper products, food products and machinery and transport equipment.

The city is easily accessible with good public transport, excellent road infrastructure and a high standard of information communications infrastructure and technology.

Corporate travellers mix business with pleasure by visiting local vineyards, breweries and a host of award-winning restaurants, most of which are close to the city centre.

Although there is plenty of luxury five star accommodation, few establishments can offer such a rich history alongside a central location, spacious rooms and conference venues as the iconic Old Woolstore Apartment Hotel.

It holds a reputation as one of Australia’s most welcoming and relaxing inner-city and conference venues. Commercial director Ben Targett says the historical aspect of the building remains a major draw-card for business.

“It was important for us to accurately market the business because some people expect heritage listed properties to have four poster beds or perhaps Victorian images come to mind, but this is a modern facility that’s been built around its history,” he says.

“In the original part of the building, which was a wool storage facility, we’ve retained a lot of the machines from the building’s past and displayed them in public areas of the hotel – there’s an old wool press, an old timber conveyor belt and convict bricks that are a talking point for guests.

“In the new part of the building, the foyer is built around a convict brick wall, which is the most asked about feature because you can see the convict markings on the wall. At the turn of the 20th century, the hotel was a wool storage and treatment facility and after that a storage facility for agricultural products.

“I’ve worked here for 13 years and during that time have come across plenty of locals who were familiar with the site before it became a hotel and they quite often come in and have a look around,” says Targett.

“There was one particular fellow that worked here as a wool baler during the forties and he came in recently and brought us a reference he was given from his employers here before he left in 1941. It’s framed and on our walls here now, but that kind of thing does happen quite often.”

Specialising in comprehensive conference packages for up to 140 guests, the property is suited for small to medium in-house events with on-site event staff including event co-ordinators, IT support and a group accommodation co-ordinator.

Tasmanian produce is the stand-out feature of the Stockman restaurant and Baaa Bar, with Stockman’s open for breakfast and dinner and the Baaa Bar providing a blend of old world and contemporary surroundings to relax with a drink after the working day.

Although guests don’t have to travel far to sample fine dining, Hobart is renowned for its seafood and just a stone’s throw from the hotel, overlooking the dock area, is Mures Upper Deck.

Head chef Matt Deakin serves up mouth watering options including panko prawns and scallops, kingfish and chermoula seafood stew.

Restaurant owner Rick McMahon says the growing corporate market is increasingly important to the business.

“As a result of the growing corporate market, when we last renovated we included a state of the art audio visual hub that allows us to link videos in all areas, so it’s great for presentations including concurrent or simultaneous presentations,” he says.

“We regularly have all day corporate meetings for up to 45 guests as well as regular functions for more than 100 diners with multiple wall mounted screens featured at suitable vantage points.”

Australia’s oldest continually operating brewery, Cascade, was established in 1824 and provides corporate groups a sampling of local brews while absorbing the site’s rich history.

Cascade general manager of hospitality Shaune Reilly says the tours are the last bastions of workplace factories that tour groups are allowed to visit.

“This brewery is small compared to the big, modern, stainless steel ones, but what’s unique about Cascade is our history. We offer two tours, the brewery tour and the heritage tour where groups don’t go into the brewery at all – it’s not a beer-centric tour but focuses on our history,” he says.

Corporate groups can also check out Meadowbank Estate, which is surrounded by vines, nestled in the picturesque Coal River Valley and only 15 minutes from Hobart.

Whether it’s a small meeting for six people or an end of conference dinner for 250 guests, events manager Anita Nandan says Meadowbank Estate has a drop to suit everyone’s taste.

“We feature an art installation at the estate called the ‘flawed gallery’, which charts when we first settled through to the modern day that’s an interesting way of telling our history,” she says.

“If you’re not interested in history, we also offer a retail experience where we host a game in the cellar door where guests have to find certain products and the winner gets to choose a product to a certain value or a bottle of wine.”

Although the popular factory tours at Cadbury were closed, the site where a glass and a half is poured into a block of dairy milk chocolate every day is well worth a visit. There are varied hire car options in Hobart but Europcar has introduced a new age in car rental loyalty with the launch of its innovative, new ‘privilege’ program.

Set to shake up the car rental market, the program offers frequent renters a world of rewards and benefits. Members are rewarded for their rentals at Europcar locations internationally and the three levels of benefits – privilege club, privilege executive and privilege elite are designed to help member save time and money. Virgin Australia, Jetstar and Qantas offer flights from Brisbane to Hobart.

The author was a guest of the Old Woolstore Apartment Hotel and Europcar.

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