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New Johannesburg conference centre opens
28 May 2008

One of Johannesburg’s most elegant conference centres has re-opened after recently changing hands.

The old Liberty Life conference centre in Parktown, now known as the AstroTech conference centre opened its doors this week with a number of improvements.

The secluded conference centre, two doors down from the Oppenheimer family home of Little Brenthurst, now has wireless connectivity for delegates and a generator system to keep conferences and banquets running smoothly even when power fails.

It has an adjacent 1 200sq metre area that in the past was used for flats and offices, but Liza van Wyk, CEO of AstroTech says they are converting the remaining flats into office space.

“Our first week open has gone very well, we’ve had excellent feedback from delegates and the first month is almost fully booked for all seven venue rooms.

“All ratings from feedback forms this week recorded that the venue, meals from our five-star chefs and facilities were ‘above expectations.’ One delegate wrote: ‘Well done.

I had a need to urgently handle a certain email and I was shown to the business centre, offered coffee and made to feel at home.’

“The conference centre specializes in serving business clientele. The packages are “all inclusive” with no annoying added costs - delegates don’t pay extra for snacks, data projectors or the other things many venues charge additional for.

We provide a total solution and our aim is that clients and delegates feel comfortable and at home in an elegant venue and that conferences and workshops proceed seamlessly,” van Wyk said.

AstroTech a national training group aimed at top executives and management has a second company, BizTech which gears training toward mid-level management, business support staff and administrators.

The AstroTech Conference Centre is a Level 4 BBBEE qualifier. It is a 100% contributor and companies using its services can improve their own BBBEE scorecard through the preferential procurement indicator.

It is less than a kilometre from major roads including Oxford road, the M1, Houghton drive and Riviera road.

It has five function rooms that can accommodate just over 310 seated delegates, a five star restaurant, bar area and extensive gardens in a secluded setting that are used in summer for outdoor events.

There is safe and free parking within the guarded and walled complex.

The conference centre has been used extensively for conferences, events and high-powered negotiations between trade groups, government and private enterprise. It is favoured because of its seclusion yet closeness to the city.

Last year Johannesburg was ranked 47th in the MasterCard "Worldwide Centres of Commerce Index." Johannesburg is the primary conference venue in Africa hosting some 860 major conferences a year and thousands more training programmes, seminars and discussion groups.

South Africa was ranked 23rd in 2007 as a conference venue by the Union of International Associations and 31st by the International Congress and Convention Association.

The AstroTech Conference Centre, as the venue will now be called, was first built as a family home in 1924 for a Mr Simpson, then acquired in 1930 by multi-millionaire insurance company owner, Isidor Schlesinger who emigrated to the United States in 1871 at the age of 18. Within two years he was earning more than one thousand pounds a month making him a wealthy man at the age of 20.

The house changed hands a number of times and at one stage was home to the Yugoslav consul and sold it in the early 1960s to the father of US billionaire, Donald Trump.

In 1989, the property was bought by Liberty Life which turned it into a state of the art conference centre and functions venue.

Van Wyk said AstroTech aimed “to turn it into the premier convention and training centre in Johannesburg.”