Reputation on the rise: Brisbane

Clockwise from below: Streets Beach, South Bank Parkland; heritage-listed Brisbane Arcade; view of Brisbane’s skyline and river from Kangaroo Point

Hosting the 2014 G20 meeting has swung Brisbane into the spotlight, allowing it to score yet another major coup, writes Rebecca Elliott

Despite being held in Brisbane two years ago, the G20 Leaders’ Summit is the gift that keeps on giving for the Australian destination.

“When you think of major conferences or events, G20 is up there,” said Brisbane Marketing’s general manager of conventions and business events, Rob Nelson.

“Not every city can say they’ve hosted the world’s business leaders. It certainly helped put Brisbane on the map and exposed the city to a market, which perhaps ordinarily wouldn’t have a complete understanding of what Brisbane’s offerings were.”

Case in point was the attraction of the World Science Festival to Brisbane, held for the first time outside of New York from March 9-13 earlier this year as part of a six-year agreement.

A production of the World Science Foundation headquartered in New York, the annual Festival has attracted more than 1.3 million visitors since its inception in 2008 in the Big Apple, and has been hailed by the New York Times as “a new cultural institution”.

The inaugural edition in Brisbane drew in excess of 120,000 visitors.

“It’s a magnificent coup for us, particularly in profiling the destination,” remarked Nelson, adding that the Festival carries enough clout to attract local, interstate and international visitors.

“Obviously being science and tech related, it gives us tremendous scope to secure conferences that are aligned,” he added.

“(As) I sit alongside the general manager of leisure tourism, we can look at (the Festival) holistically and think, how can we leverage off the back of a major event?”

As part of their strategy, Nelson and his team hosted 32 national and international clients on three concurrent familiarisations during the Festival, in partnership with Business Events Australia and Tourism and Events Queensland, with the view to securing business events during future Festivals.

As a principal Festival venue, the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre (BCEC) also supported the familiarisations.

“The Festival brings to Brisbane some of the greats from the international science and arts communities,” said general manager Bob O’Keefe.

“It is a wonderful opportunity to showcase and celebrate Brisbane’s science and research capabilities and reinforces the depth of the world leading expertise we have here.

“In conjunction with Brisbane Marketing, our team is working with clients to encourage them to align their events with future Festivals where they can potentially access visiting keynote speakers and leading academics.”

Securing the World Science Festival is a success story of the Brisbane 2022 New World Action Plan, which was developed by Brisbane Marketing and Brisbane City Council in partnership with industry and academia following G20 to keep the impetus going and formulate a growth plan for the city, according to Nelson.

Brisbane Marketing engaged over 1,000 industry stakeholders across 16 work groups to shape the economic development plan, which resulted in 140 different recommendations.

“What was pleasing in my role was that the visitor economy was up there as one of the top growth sectors, combining major events and business events,” Nelson explained.

“For us it is about gaining market share. Part of our strategy is to secure one significant event per month for Brisbane.

“It’s a very, very competitive environment and what we’ve shown with our infrastructure growth combined with events like G20, is the appeal of the destination is now increasing. Our capacity to host a variety of events and also capitalise on our medical research institutes and fantastic university network has enabled us to present a more compelling proposition,” he concluded.


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