The City of Melbourne

A Jolly Start to Santa's Journey

  • Crowd management is easy online
  • Flexibility is the key
  • Online booking achieves desired outcome for large event

The City of Melbourne needed a way to manage the crowds that come to welcome Santa to the CBD. Limiting the number of people who attend very popular free events can be a tough proposition for event planners. The City of Melbourne sought a friendly solution for a feel-good event.


The City of Melbourne is the political and economic centre of Victoria. It includes the central business district, Southbank, and some of the area's most historic suburbs. Every year the City of Melbourne organises a diverse range of large and small events for the public.

For more than five years, one of the most popular events on the calendar is Santa's Arrival in the Bourke Street mall. Over two performances, almost 4 000 children and their families come to see Santa on his way to the "Magic Cave". Special guests like Dora the Explorer and, in 2008, characters from the Madagascar movies make the event truly memorable for children.

Access to this free event, however, is limited by the venue in which it is held. "The space we had for Santa's Arrival maxed out at 2 000 people, so to avoid crowd crush issues, we wanted to use ticketing to manage access and ensure everyone was safe and comfortable," said Clint Hong, Project Coordinator for Events Melbourne. "A colleague suggested I look at TryBooking and one of the reasons it worked for us was that it was a more flexible system. We could use our preferred wording on our tickets and during the booking process. This is a free event, and I didn't want to confuse people with words like 'purchase' during the booking process."

Managing Change

In the promotional literature and online through "That's Melbourne" people were directed to the Santa's Arrival - TryBooking URL to get their free tickets. They were also given the option to phone for tickets, so everyone, regardless of their internet comfort, had access to Santa. "When someone phoned I just booked their tickets online while they were on the phone with me. I then emailed their tickets to them or arranged for them to collect them at the event. It was really quick and easy," said Clint.

Since booking tickets was a shift from the open access format in previous years, Clint allocated 3400 tickets online and held back 600 for "walk-ins" on the day. This avoided disappointing patrons who weren't aware of the change in policy, while still achieving his goal of a maximum of 2 000 guests per session.

"Less than 5% of the people who attended the event phoned us with enquires or for help getting tickets," said Clint. "Not once did I have trouble booking tickets through the TryBooking website. I found the entire process really smooth and simple."

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