Martin Smith (41)
COO, Mainstream BPO
1. How often do you travel to Sydney and who do you fly with?
Typically once a month. I usually fly with Qantas. Their First Class lounge is fantastic and it has a fully functioning kitchen: the eggs Benedict and duck curry are favourites of mine.
2. One thing everyone ought to know about Sydney:
There are some great walks around the harbour and the eastern beaches like Manly to Spit Bridge and Bondi to Bronte. I think you’ve got to go to Bondi Icebergs for lunch at the weekend.
3. How quickly can you get a visa?
Passport holders from Canada, Hong Kong (SAR), Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea or the US can apply online at the Australian Government Electronic Travel Authority. It costs A$20 and after submitting the form it takes just a couple of hours for an electronic visa to be granted. Other passport holders can apply for an ETA through a travel agent, airline, specialist service provider or the Australian High Commission in Singapore.
4. Fastest way to get into the city?
Taxi. There are train services, but it’s A$10 to A$15 one way, so if there are two of you it’s cheaper to get a cab. The airport train runs every 10 minutes but isn’t great if you’re just off the plane and you want to get straight into your hotel or to a meeting. There’s a very good metrobus service between the beaches such as Bondi and some of the northern city suburbs like Chatswood. They run very frequently, connecting a lot of the main parts of the city. If you are not going into the city but are heading into regional New South Wales, I recommend you hire a car.
5. When are the good and bad times to visit Sydney?
January is the best time of the year: it’s warm but not hot and perfect for visiting the Sydney Festival and the OpenAir Cinema at Lady Macquarie’s Chair. The festival has music, theatre and dance performances as well as art installations and exhibitions. The city hosts a lot of cultural events around that time of the year.
6. Hotels you recommend:
It is difficult to beat The Westin (+61 2 8223 1111) due to its location in the heart of the city at Martin Place. Harbourview (+61 2 9252 4111) has a lot of nice restaurants and bars nearby. There are a couple of boutique hotels that are opening up now; Establishment Hotel (+61 2 9240 3100) and Blue Hotel (+612 9331 9000) are both supposed to be good. There are also a few smaller hotels popping up in the laneways that weave through the city.
7. What’s the dress code for meetings?
I think it’s becoming more and more like Singapore where people just wear a shirt, although they generally wear a jacket and tie.
8. Any cultural or business etiquette to be aware of?
In Asia you build a relationship and then you do business. In Sydney or Australia, you do business and then you build a relationship. In Asia there’s a general respect to building a relationship; in Sydney it can be more cut and thrust. I’ve seen people throw their business cards on the table in Sydney, which is something you can’t do in Asia. Generally, Australians like people who are knowledgeable and straight-talking – there are fewer protocols about the way business is done.
9. You are taking a client to lunch or dinner, where do you go?
Café Sydney (+61 2 9251 8683) has incredible food and one of the best panoramic views in Sydney of the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. The Verandah Bar (+61 2 9239 5888) and The Loft (+61 2 9299 4770) are both good bars for meetings and drinks.
10. Casual bars to go for a drink with clients where you won’t get hassled?
The new small bars license [issued by the New South Wales Government] means there are a lot of new bars popping up around the CBD. I like to take clients to The Ivy Pool Bar (+61 2 9240 3000), although it’s wall-to-wall people and drinks are as expensive as Singapore. In the Eastern suburbs of Paddington and Five Ways there are some great pubs like the Lord Dudley in Paddington (+61 2 9327 5399) and the Centennial (+61 2 9362 3838); they all have restaurants too. The rooftop bar of the Australian Hotel (+61 2 9247 2229) is another one I’d recommend, you can go up there on a weeknight and it feels a bit like Club Street. There are some great places in and around Chinatown too.
11. Any unsafe areas to avoid?
Hyde Park at night. The south end of the city and the suburb of Redfern can be unsafe to walk around at night. Kings Cross can be rowdy in the early hours of the morning too.
12. You’ve got some spare time, what’s the must-see?
Any of the Northern Beaches are worth a visit and Manly Beach too. Physically, Sydney is a beautiful city so most of things you’d typically do revolve around its features – a twilight cruise on the harbour is a must. If you can’t manage that, take a ferry to Manly or any of the inner routes up the river. For me, nothing beats just dropping your bags and driving over the Harbour Bridge on a sunny Sydney morning.
13. Gifts to take home for family and friends?
A pair of Speedos or a bikini with the Southern Cross flag on it. You can buy souvenirs at some of the shops in The Rocks.
14. How long before your flight do you really need to be at Sydney Airport?
You need to be there two hours before your flight because customs queues can be lengthy and the gates can be a good ten-minute walk.