Four reasons Brisbane is the ideal location for business events
Words by Ashley Gordon, Director of Client Relations for Carillon Conference Management (CCM)
Business events play a crucial role in Brisbane’s visitor economy, and are set to play an even bigger role in the future.
Business events generate an average of $250 million per year for the Brisbane economy, and according to Tourism Australia’s National Business Events Survey, one in every five dollars spent by a visitor to Australia is spent by a delegate attending a business event.
What’s even more important are the opportunities that come from hosting conferences in Brisbane. They provide a chance for organisations in Brisbane — from universities and research institutions through to businesses that are based here — to network with international visitors.
At the Asia Pacific Cities Summit that was recently held in Brisbane, for instance, we actively provided opportunities for local businesspeople to introduce themselves to international operators. These conferences generate investments into local businesses from offshore and they create export opportunities.
It doesn’t actually matter what sector the event is for. It could be a mining conference, an agriculture conference, a medical conference — if the conference managers reach out to the people in Brisbane who are involved in that industry, and make a point of integrating them into the event, that synergy will happen and you will see those sorts of connections being made.
There are four particularly compelling factors that make Brisbane an ideal location for business events — and they’re only becoming more compelling as time goes by.
Brisbane is accessible
It’s very affordable to get to Brisbane from Sydney, which is the prime domestic market, and Melbourne, which is the secondary domestic market, because there are lots of discounted and inexpensive fares available in the corridor that links Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. When the new runway opens at Brisbane Airport, it will lead to even more discounted tickets being available, because of the increased capacity.
In 2018, China was Australia’s largest inbound market for visitor arrivals and total expenditure, with $700 million spent between 100,000 Chinese business event delegates. The Asia Pacific region will continue to be the major inbound market for business events. Many of those countries look to Australian conferences for high quality professional development and education — and it’s easier and more affordable for people from those countries to get to Australia, and in particular Brisbane, than it is for them to get to Europe. Brisbane’s appeal to those countries will only grow with the improvement of the airport.
With the new runway, we’re going to have direct services between cities that we’ve never had before, and those extra services in and out of Brisbane are going to have a very significant impact on Brisbane’s accessibility. I can’t overstate the importance of the development of the airport, and the increased capacity that will come with the new runway — it will be an absolutely key advantage for Brisbane.
Brisbane has world-class conference facilities
The Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre is one of the very best convention centres in the world. In 2016, it was actually named ‘The Best Convention Centre in the World’ by the Annual General Assembly of the International Association of Congress Centres (AIPC). It lives up to that title, too — it’s a particularly versatile centre with lots of useful spaces, and the people who run it are great to work with. It’s also located, quite uniquely, in the middle of a major cultural, recreational and leisure precinct.
Of course, the Convention Centre is only one of the products Brisbane has to offer. Brisbane has plenty of spaces to hold events and conferences, but just as important as those formal meeting spaces are the places where innovative social events and networking events can be held. Our stocks are really going up in that department, too.
The recent opening of the Howard Smith Wharves is a great example — we’ve taken delegates there for special events and they’ve been spectacularly successful. The opening of the Queen’s Wharf precinct will make Brisbane an even more attractive destination.
Brisbane can accommodate large events
Until recently, accommodation was a weak point for Brisbane. Our options were very limited.
That’s all changed now. A succession of new, world-class hotels — like the Westin, the W and Four Points by Sheraton, just to name a few — have opened in Brisbane, with more on the way. We now have a reasonably priced selection of very high quality accommodation options that are all within walking distance of the Convention Centre. On top of that, these hotels all have their own conference facilities.
The availability of accommodation is particularly important because Brisbane is the only conference destination in Australia that faces real competition within its own state. If a client is looking at having a large scale conference in New South Wales, it’ll be in Sydney. If a client is looking at having a large scale conference in Victoria, it’ll be in Melbourne. But if they’re looking at having it in Queensland — and they will, because most national conferences rotate between states — they might have it in Brisbane, or they might have it on the Gold Coast, or they might have it in Cairns.
By ensuring that world-class accommodation is available for conference delegates at a reasonable price, Brisbane avoids conceding any ground to these competitors.
Brisbane is convenient — but it could be even more convenient
In Brisbane, because the CBD is very compact and very close to the Brisbane River, walking between locations is a very straightforward proposition. You can take a scenic stroll across the bridge from the Convention Centre to the W, for example.
If you go to Vienna, their convention centre is six train stops out of the centre of the city. It’s in the middle of a field. It’s not in the centre of the city like our convention centres are in Australia. And the Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre is in the best location, even better than the Sydney Convention & Exhibition Centre, because if you’ve got some downtime during a conference, you have so many options.
You can go for a walk along the river; you can have something to eat at South Bank; you can go for a swim; you can go to two of Australia’s best art galleries; you can go to a museum; you can go to the State Library; you can catch a movie on a giant screen across the road. It’s very unique in that sense.
It’s very easy to move around the centre of Brisbane. In the future, though, I would love to see Brisbane promote an easier form of point-to-point transport for delegates at very large conferences. Consider Vienna — yes, the convention centre is in an inconvenient location, but if you are wearing any sort of conference name badge, your use of the railway system is free. You just get on and off, no questions asked. It’s the same in Adelaide. If you’re a conference delegate, you can jump on a tram for free within the inner city area, which covers their major hotels and the Adelaide Convention Centre. I think we need to do the same for our conference delegates here.
If you ensure the delegate experience is a positive one, then you turn every person who attends a conference here into an ambassador for Brisbane. The two comments we consistently hear from people who attend our events are ‘Brisbane is so beautiful’ and ‘We can’t get over how clean it is’. Attendees often talk about how dynamic the city is. They tell us this without any sort of prompting — people are genuinely bright-eyed and enthusiastic when they talk about Brisbane.
You can’t buy that sort of publicity. It’s really quite brilliant, and it’s the biggest benefit of hosting business events in Brisbane.