We all know that multiculturalism embodies the history and spirit of Melbourne, which is perhaps why Laura Cavallo is so well suited to the role of Chief Executive at Destination Melbourne. A proud Melburnian from an equally proud Italian family, Laura understands that it is the people, events and culture that can make a city great – not to mention great coffee!
Peter: How do you take your coffee?
Skinny latte which I get from Bond Café at 7.30am each morning before work. That’s it for the day. I will also have 4 or 5 cups of black or peppermint tea and at night I often have a liquorice tea which has no caffeine. Years ago I was a caffeine addict drinking 12 cups of coffee a day at one stage!
Peter: I didn’t even know liquorice tea was a thing. How long have you worked at Destination Melbourne and what is your background?
I’ve been CEO for over 3 years and I have loved every moment of it. Before Destination Melbourne I spent 15 years at Tourism Victoria in various roles including PR, Media & Promotions and Destination & Brand Strategy. That was a really good period as we were launching interesting campaigns under the Jigsaw strategy and it’s great to see how Victoria has evolved as a visitor destination. I have a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Italian & Ancient Greek Classic Studies and a Graduate Diploma in Marketing from RMIT.
Peter: What are some of your proudest moments/highlights whilst being Chief Executive at Destination Melbourne?
I would have to say being part of a great team who continually create great campaigns and new initiatives to enhance the visitors experience in Melbourne. Some of these new projects have included the Melbourne Now campaign, creating the China cultural study program for business in Victoria, the Melbourne Live visitor forum and the development of the Greater Melbourne Destination Management Visitor Plan with local councils and key state government stakeholders. We have also just rolled out our new corporate brand campaign so it’s continually a busy time for all our staff. As a proud Melburnian, I am particularly proud that everything we do is designed to help give visitors to Melbourne the best experience possible.
Peter: Why is Melbourne such a great city to host major events?
I really think it’s in our DNA – it’s like we are born with this innate love for attending events whether it be sporting, cultural or community. I think it originates from our multicultural backgrounds, as there never seems to be a weekend without one festival or another in the city or across our neighbourhoods. I also believe we have the experience and expertise in staging such a diverse range of events. I don’t know any other city quite like us.
Peter: What is your favourite event to attend in Melbourne?
Well coming form an all-girl Italian family, it’s not the AFL, although I was very happy that the Doggies won the Grand Final. For me, it’s definitely the Tennis, Food & Wine Festival, Spring Racing Carnival and the Melbourne Festival.
Peter: If I didn’t know you better I’d say there was a definite trend for a bit of glam, maybe with a drink somewhere along the way………
Well maybe a little, but they are all great events to attend. I also enjoy the Opera, particularly when they sing in Italian.
Peter: Who are some of your most admired Melburnians?
There are many who have done and continue to do great things for our city. The one that comes top of mind is Jeff Kennett who really kick started so much development and infrastructure that has become invaluable assets for the city. But I also admire people like Rebecca Scott, from STREAT, who is running a café social enterprise training homeless youth in hospitality. Rebecca started off with a cart in Federation Square but STREAT now has five premises in Melbourne. There are so many people in Melbourne who care about the disadvantaged and I really admire their dedication and sacrifice to help others.
Peter: What is your favorite restaurant in Melbourne?
That is a tough question. I can’t give you just one restaurant I have to stretch it to my top 5. Here they are: Pastuso for great Peruvian food, Chin Chin – well its Chin Chin!, Miss Saigon for Vietnamese, Maha for delicious middle eastern and then my Bayside local True South for great Argentinian flavours.
Peter: Does that mean you are willing to queue?
I definitely don’t queue but I have worked out the best times to go without the long wait to get in. And no I’m not about to tell you when that is otherwise you’ll all turn up and I won’t get in!
Peter: What does Melbourne need that it doesn’t have?
In an ideal world it would be great to have the airport rail link. Given the predicted growth in passenger travel over the next 10 – 20 years we will well and truly need increased access between the city and the airport – if we are to give visitors and locals a better airport experience.
Peter: Does Melbourne need an iconic landmark?
We are a sophisticated cultural city so I don’t see a need for something man made. I believe we have many iconic places and styles that can be found through our streets, love of sport, the arts, music, the food – the list goes on. Whatever you like, you’ll find it in Melbourne as we are a city with a soul.
Peter: Favourite getaway spot in Victoria?
I really enjoy getting away to Wye River. We do it at least once a year and rent a house there. I find it so relaxing and quiet.
Peter: Besides Melbourne, what’s another city you would like to live in?
I’ve always thought I could live in Barcelona. The last time I was there, which is a while ago now, I was impressed with the city’s style and creative heartbeat. Not sure I would ever manage it – but you never know!
Peter: Finally, define Melbourne in one word?
Cultured. We really have it in spades here and that’s one of the reasons I love living and working here.
Peter: Laura thank you for your time and insights today.