by Chelsea Davis and Andrea Doyle | May 16, 2017
From the Outback to the Great Barrier Reef, the land down under offers something for every incentive traveler. Australia is the eighth-largest tourism market, and for the first time in a calendar year, welcomed 8.26 million international visitors in 2016. Thanks to its reputation for both safety and a diverse array of activities, it's a highly sought-after destination for incentive travel.

With natural beauty, sightseeing, upscale accommodations and event facilities, rich history, and unique experiences, it's an impressive place for work or play. Moreover, Australia's culinary scene is brighter than ever. For world-class dining look no further than Melbourne, which hosted the World's 50 Best Restaurants 2017 in April.

"Australia consistently ranks at the top of Americans' wish lists of destinations they want to visit," says Jane Whitehead, vice president of Americas for Tourism Australia. "So if you're looking for a destination with 'wow' factor that is truly rewarding and inspiring for your group, you just can't beat Australia. Now with the exchange rate at the most favorable level for Americans in many years, it's an even better value for groups."

She points out that 70 percent of the country's international visitors enjoy aquatic and coastal experiences as part of their trip to Australia and rank Australia No. 1 for marine wildlife and remote and developed coastal beaches and aquatic locations.

"Wherever you are in Australia, there is a coastal or aquatic experience for groups to participate in," says Whitehead, "whether it's a helicopter ride over the 12 Apostles in Victoria; group paddleboarding in Sydney Harbour; snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef; kayaking through Katherine Gorge in the Northern Territory; driving on the beach in South Australia; cycling around Lake Burley Griffin; sailing through the sparkling blue waters of Rottnest Island; or walking the recently launched Three Capes Track in Tasmania."

New Properties
There's also a wealth of new development for incentive groups throughout the country. Starwood's Aloft brand is debuting Aloft Perth Hotel this month. With 224 guest rooms and almost 10,000 square feet of meeting space, it also features a rooftop function space with panoramic views of the river.

The five-star Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour is scheduled to open in November and will be located by the new International Convention Centre. Further strengthening the $3.4 billion redevelopment of the harbor area is the Hyatt Regency Sydney's newly opened Zephyr Bar, a rooftop bar with space for 200 guests. Moreover, InterContinental Sydney is set for an AUD$200 million renovation that will add 509 guest rooms as well as a new ballroom.

The boutique 93-room Sage Hotel James Street in Brisbane is open for business, offering guests spacious event facilities such as the James Street Conference and Function Center. The Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Center was recently named "World's Best Convention Center" at the annual general assembly of the International Association of Congress Centers in Nantes, France.

Cairns' five-star Pullman Reef Hotel Casino has completed AUD$6.5 million worth of refurbishments, resulting in an upgraded hotel lobby, expansion of its restaurant, and Bar36 Live Lounge.