Games furnish rewards, but some still lose
THE State Government promoted the Commonwealth Games as injecting more than $3 billion into the Victorian economy, including $270 million in tourism expenditure and sealing multimillion-dollar business deals between Australian and overseas companies. But, just like the Games, the past two weeks have produced winners and losers in Victorian business.
For Ramler Furniture, based in Cheltenham, it’s been about as good as it gets.
The company is a member of Business Club Australia, which was devised by Austrade and first used during the Sydney Olympics. Since then, BCA is credited with generating more than $1.6 billon worth of trade and investment deals.
And for Ramler the benefits have been massive.
Chief executive Paul Ramler said he was “bloody exhausted” but “all smiles” after networking through the club’s Observer Program during the Games. His company provided the furniture fit-out and equipment for the Games village, broadcasters, MCG and other venues after previously winning contracts at the Sydney and Athens Olympics.
Mr Ramler is now optimistic he will secure a $30 million deal for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.
“If we pick up Beijing it will be the largest (major event furniture) contract in the world.”
He has also had talks with South Pacific Games officials, Delhi officials for the 2010 Commonwealth Games and officials from the Doha Asian Games.
At least six Australian BCA members are now engaged in active negotiations with international partners, which are likely to result in multi-million dollar deals. The Games has seen BCA membership grow to more than 6700 and 40 per cent of members are international.
The Games also proved fruitful for hotels and motels, according to Hotel, Motel and Accommodation Association (Victoria) chair Carol Douglas.
She said inner city accommodation had experienced very good occupancy levels and rate growth.
“The majority have taken 90 per cent plus (in occupancy) over the Games,” she said.
“The only misjudgment has been in food — the hotel restaurants didn’t come up as well as expected.”
Ms Douglas said the Games had been a great success for hotels and motels, considering all the athletes stayed in the Games village.
But not all businesses are smiling.
Large numbers of local restaurant owners who prepared for the Government’s predicted 90,000 visitors were left asking the same question as the country’s latest marketing campaign: “where the bloody hell are you?”
There were car park spaces aplenty at the Queen Victoria Market yesterday with stall holders expressing anguish over the lack of customers during the Games period.
Ray has run an Australiana stall at the market for 40 years and described the Games period as “catastrophic”.
“It’s an absolute disaster. Six years ago I was excited about the Games coming because they were talking about it being a boom for business but I’ve never seen anything like this — someone needs to be held accountable,” he said.
Dory Peck has sold leather jackets at the market since 1960 and said this had been the worst year of business ever.
“People were told about road closures and only using trains or buses to get into the city and now my business is 95 per cent below standard,” he said. “I used to sell 260 jackets a day and now I’m selling maybe six or seven.”
Grant from Amotts Butchers said the market was one of Victoria’s biggest tourist attractions but because of the Games he had to resort to giving meat away.
“I’m down nearly 40 per cent on my normal week’s takings,” he said. “I work 70 hours a week to take home nothing. I don’t want to be here on a Sunday giving meat away.”
City restaurants were also left feeling frustrated.
CII Cafe Bar owner Miled Khoury said he had never seen it so quiet in his 13 years of running his Little Lonsdale Street business.
“One could fire a cannon here and kill nobody,” he said.
“All the publicity a month before the Games about traffic and security kept people away.”
Mr Khoury said his business lost money over the two week period and other businesses in the area had also suffered.
Restaurant and Catering Victoria chief executive Wendy Jones agreed that businesses at the Bourke Street end of the city were quiet.
The busiest restaurants were in the line of pedestrian traffic, at Federation Square and Southbank, and many were family oriented, she said.
Ms Jones said her organisation had received mixed reports on how the Games had affected business.
“Some were saying ‘this has been a disaster, it’s been terrible’, some said ‘things haven’t changed’, and others were saying ‘this is great — business has gone up 20 per cent’,” she said.
Ms Jones said the majority of complaints had come from businesses that were affected by road closures.
But she believes most businesses had realistic expectations of the Games’ impact.
“I don’t think the Government set up an expectation for restaurant owners. There was an expectation for the city overall but not for any particular part.”
Ms Jones said the city had received global exposure and hopefully that would lead to more visitor dollars.
Australian Retailers Association Victoria executive director David Edwards said that although the Games had attracted plenty of visitors, they were only in Melbourne for events and not for shopping.
“People have been keeping clear of the city because of reports of congestion,” he said. “It hasn’t met expectations.”
The Government expects to release more figures on what the event has done for Melbourne in the coming weeks.
But Ramler Furniture is one business that will be singing its praises. At 7.30 on Friday morning Mr Ramler was contacted by McDonald’s in the US asking that he fly to Orlando to present his case for the supply of all America’s McDonald’s store furniture.
Publication: The Age
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