A quiet confidence

With upgrades, infrastructure and new experiences in place, Gold Coast believes it has everything an event planner needs or wants.

Gold Coast Cultural Precinct Stage

With a name synonymous with white-sand beaches, stunning sunsets and turquoise oceans, the Gold Coast has long been a natural tourism magnet.

Gold Coast Cultural Precinct Stage

But the tide for corporates is clearly changing in the direction of an upswell with new products making their way to the Gold Coast, an even greater focus on meeting the needs of business travellers, and Asian incentive groups now waking up to that offering.

Definitely 2018 is a big year for incentives (for us),” said director of Gold Coast Business Events, Anna Case, reflecting on the momentum brought by the hosting of direct selling company Infinitus China in April, which saw 6,100 delegates visit. It was the Gold Coast’s biggest group ever.

“I know we’ve already got some great groups like NuSkin Korea with 550 delegates literally (confirmed) two days after hosting the Commonwealth Games (in March). And there’s another 1,100 coming from Japan in October, and a group of 1,500 from China in August. And I think (things are) just going to start surging from here.”

As Case will say, identifying incentive bookings can sometimes be a tricky business. But she believes incentive numbers have increased by a whopping 40 per cent over the previous year, their highest growth rate ever.

It tallies with the rising number of international conferences held in the Gold Coast, recognised in the latest ICCA Country and City Rankings report putting the Gold Coast at 148 globally in 2017, up from 279 the year before.

The twin achievements of gaining a 99.8 per cent satisfaction rating from Infinitus delegates and the city’s successful hosting of the Games have played no small part in putting the Gold Coast firmly on the corporate radar in the region.

Thanks to the hosting of the Games, the Gold Coast now enjoys A$320 million (US$235 million) in new sporting infrastructure, plus upgrades to arterial roads, the light rail network, new accommodation and shopping centres.

All this has helped position this destination for sports, health and wellness events. Case confirms they’ve won over 50 events now to the city, leading from 2016 to 2020, with another 19 events in pursuit.

Echoing that success is the Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre (GCCEC), which is lobbying the government to expand its facilities by up to 50 per cent.

General manager of GCCEC, Adrienne Readings, told TTGmice that the ability to provide the right infrastructure will help arrest the lost business they are experiencing, made more with the increasing popularity of the Gold Coast.

“Enquiry rates from Asia have increased by about 200 to 300 per cent, especially from mainland China, thanks to Infinitus China,” shared Readings.

New hotel developments are also in full swing, with The Star’s A$850 million transformation into an integrated resort; Swissotel and Rydges brands to make their mark in 2019; and also a A$1 billion redevelopment of beachfront complex Jewel, which will offer five-star accommodation and a ballroom for 800.

Even Village Roadshow Theme Parks, which runs six entertainment venues, has introduced a conference centre, which Kelly She, its international sales manager, tells TTGmice has more than doubled their corporate bookings since it opened two years ago.

“We’ve seen a 10 per cent increase in bookings year-on-year for incentive groups. And Asian groups especially appreciate the exclusive experiences we can offer, like exclusive shows or exclusive time to meet our movie characters,” she continued.

Teambuilding is also proving popular although the style of activity has evolved significantly, according to Simon Piltz, Gold Coast-based account director for teambuilding company Be Challenged.

“Our growth over the last 12 months is around 57 per cent. Traditional teambuilding has definitely changed over the last 15 years and there’s a need for fresh, new ideas. The old school of thought needing three or four hours for a programme is gone,” Piltz elaborated.

“Everything today has to be jammed into a conference agenda and the one- to two-hour product is really where we’re headed. Our number one conference energiser Boomtime, which helps delegates get moving and shifts their mindset from one session to the next – without any disruption to the conference agenda – is 20 minutes and it’s flying off the shelves.”

But having the right products and infrastructure is only half the battle won, as Case will attest, and hence requires an unexpected approach to winning incentive groups.

“I just came back from China and I know they’re being courted by every destination around the world,” Case remarked.

“(But) people buy people they like, and they want to feel welcomed and part of a destination and they want to be like a local. So when we go up, we entertain, and we get everyone dancing.

“It’s a little bit out of the comfort zone but we do it with such genuine love of what we do, and I want them to feel that this is part of what they’re going to get when they come down to the Gold Coast… you’ve just got to be different and show your passion,” concluded Case.

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