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How is Brisbane creating a unique association meetings brand?

Already riding high as a tourism and convention destination, Brisbane’s aiming to extend its appeal even further. Angela Antrobus reports

When it comes to popularity as a tourism destination, Brisbane has a head start. Its subtropical climate and proximity to beaches, rainforests and the Great Barrier Reef, coupled with an easy-going outdoor lifestyle, flourishing arts scene, vast range of festivals and sporting events and myriad of shops and restaurants, are difficult to beat. As the state capital of Queensland, Brisbane is an important business centre, too, and hosts the third-largest number of international association meetings of all the convention cities in Australia.

But, despite welcoming record numbers of visitors in recent years, the city wants more and has embarked on a drive to tempt visitors to stay longer.

The Visitor Economy 2031 Vision for the Brisbane Region is spearheaded by Brisbane Marketing, a subsidiary of the city council. Announcing it last September, Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner said, “There is more to see and do in our region than ever before but now we need to work together to create a globally recognised Brisbane brand and remarkable experiences to give visitors even more reason to stay and spend in our region.”

Business event attendees are an important part of the visitor mix and the hope is that more will choose to extend their stay, maybe bring family with them, to enjoy what Brisbane and the Queensland playground beyond have to offer.

Conference organisers are also made aware of major events they can align with, offering opportunities to access top brains in certain fields and maybe build delegate experiences into their programme.

Staging World Expo 88 over 30 years ago is said to have ignited Brisbane as a global events city. Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre (BCEC) opened in 1995 and, after adding the Grey Street extension, hosted the G20 Summit in 2014, the most significant meeting of world leaders ever held in Australia.

With such impressive credentials, an expanding conference infrastructure and the impetus of Brisbane Marketing, Brisbane’s stature as a business events destination has soared. Its wealth of expertise in medicine, science and other knowledge sectors adds to its strengths and Brisbane Marketing taps into this local talent to help identify association conferences worth targeting.

As an incentive. the Lord Mayor’s Convention Trailblazer Grant was introduced in 2017 to encourage Brisbane’s emerging researchers and industry professionals to attend a leading international conference and advocate for the event to be held in Brisbane in the future, working with Brisbane Marketing on the bid. Successes so far include the International Peptide Symposium and the AG Bell Global Listening and Spoken Language Symposium, both anticipating attendances of over 500 global experts in their fields in Brisbane next year.

Overall, bids won through to 2026 involving Brisbane Marketing are predicted to be worth over AU$112 million and bring an estimated 47,600 industry and academic leaders to the city.

Brisbane

BCEC Great Hall.

Logical location

More than 800 delegates from 43 countries attended the third International Tropical Agriculture Conference (TropAg 2019) held in the Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre (BCEC) last November.

As the world’s premier conference in tropical and subtropical agriculture and food production, the biennial event brings together researchers, growers, investors, policymakers and agribusiness leaders to chart a strategic direction to meet the potential food crisis facing the world today. It’s the brainchild of BCEC Convention Advocate Professor Robert Henry, director of the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation at the University of Queensland, and developed in conjunction with the centre’s international conventions team.

He believes that the current debate around climate change and the insecurity of the world’s food supply has prompted greater investment in agriculture in Australia. “We are one of the very few developed countries in a tropical environment,” he says. “We have the capability, the expertise and the investment. In an academic sense and scientifically, Queensland leads the way in agriculture.”

The conference theme was ‘Shaping the science of tomorrow’. Henry describes the seven keynote speakers as ‘inspirational’ and the rest of the three-day programme comprised concurrent symposia following five different tracks, a total of 240 in all. Delegates agreed it was an excellent conference with great presentations and opportunities for networking. As a highlight, BCEC executive chef David Pugh demonstrated his passion for sourcing local and ethical produce by creating an all-Queensland menu for the gala dinner.

Henry expects TropAg to continue for many years to come and possibly become an annual event. “Brisbane is the logical place to hold it and the international reputation of the meeting is growing,” he affirms. “The BCEC team is crucial to the success of this event and the venue is convenient and flexible. The conference can grow with the venue.”

What’s new?

  • Around 20 four- and five-star hotels opened in the past five years, with more to come.
  • Brisbane Airport expansion: AU$3.8 billion upgrade including a new parallel runway opening this year. New direct services from the US and Asia have been introduced.
  • BCEC has extended its green agenda with the installation of 764 solar panels on its roof and hopes soon to receive EarthCheck Platinum level environmental certification. The centre offers 44 multi-functional meeting and event spaces, including the Great Hall with tiered seating for 4,000, two further auditoria, gala function spaces and four exhibition halls.
  • Alexandria Park: two additional acres of indoor and outdoor space, with the heritage-listed pavilion Building 8 as its focal point, have opened as part of the AU$2.9 billion Brisbane Showgrounds Regeneration Project. The total number of event spaces is now 24, including the Royal International Convention Centre.
  • Howard Smith Wharves: the heritage-listed wharves beneath Brisbane’s Story Bridge have been restored as an events precinct with dedicated conference and exhibition spaces, restaurants, a brewery and the five-star Fantauzzo Art Series Hotel.
  • Fortitude Music Hall: an exciting new venue accommodating 3,000 people standing or 1,100 people seated, now home to the Brisbane Comedy Festival.
  • Queen’s Wharf: an integrated resort and casino set to open in 2022, with five- and six-star hotels, bars, restaurants, boutique shopping, a bridge across the Brisbane River, vast green spaces, a sky deck, theatre, meeting spaces and nine restored heritage buildings.

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