Wow. Wow. And wow. It was the innovative little things and the passion of organisers that scored Tourism Australia’s bi-annual incentive event in Brisbane a near perfect score by micenet editor Brad Foster.
At the conclusion of Dreamtime 2017 in December I joked with a few of the Tourism Australia and Brisbane Marketing staff that I was having trouble finding anybody to give me any negatives about the event.
It was all so damn favourable.
Surely with around 100 international buyers of incentive travel product and 19 or 20 media personnel somebody had to have something negative to say.
But it appears they didn’t. And let me tell you why…
Tourism Australia, Brisbane Marketing and the host of local operators and supporters shone a light – literally – on a side of the city that very few “outsiders” had seen before. Yes literally.
There is no greater example of this than that image to the left of the illuminated menu that was presented at the final night dinner. Long tables in the Queensland Art Gallery’s Watermall had in-built LED lights that changed in sequence with performances.
Guests sat down at tables elegantly set and which had what appeared to be a black piece of cardboard in front of each chair. Beside this was an ultraviolet torch. Only when you shone the torch on the cardboard could you see the menu and what you would be eating that night.
And that certainly wasn’t all of the surprises courtesy of the event’s creative agency, Belle Laide.
As dinner progressed, Australian artist Sophia Mary Mac created a piece of live digital art on the Watermall’s 24 metre by 9.5 metre wall, inspired by the events of the Dreamtime 2017 program and projected on the wall as guests dined.
Just look at the image on the opposite page (15 Dreamtime 11.jpg) of the animation in this international hosted buyer’s face and you can’t help but wish that you were there too. This is what true event mastery looks like and Belle Laide should be congratulated for creating an ambience in which this kind of obvious joy was achieved.
It’s terribly important to remember that the majority of these people have been there and done that the world over. This dinner was the conclusion of a full day of one-on-one appointments and a second day of experiencing what the city of Brisbane has to offer. Many of the international buyers were probably still a little jet-lagged, and yet their energy at this event was palpable.
As a chef will tell you, a bad dinner can be saved by a great dessert. This final night was definitely the icing on the cake for Dreamtime 2017, although it clearly wasn’t required to save the rest of the program which was full of surprises.
Everything, it appeared, had been thought of. And what was most exciting was that everything had been presented with a small unexpected twist.
Like the site inspection of the new W Brisbane (due to open in March 2018). Following a great lunch in one of Brisbane’s most celebrated restaurants, Urbane, media delegates were invited downstairs to suit up for the site inspection. Awaiting the group were not your standard steel-capped boots but some rather more “now” footwear that this writer for one had never been seen before (see image below).
It wasn’t a big deal but it was a big deal. This was, remember, a group of people who had probably done dozens of site inspections of new hotels. Now they were doing one in a pair of funky shoes and high vis vests. Smart thinking Brisbane and TA!
COO of Brisbane Marketing and the former general manager of the local convention bureau, Rob Nelson, may have had some early trepidation at suggesting to his team after attending Dreamtime 2015 in Adelaide that they should bid for the 2017 event.
“In truth, we questioned whether we should bid for 2017 or 2019,” he said.
Back then they knew about plans for the mega Queens Wharf project, Howard Smith Wharves, and that a new build five-star CBD hotel was on the cards (W Brisbane).
The wondered whether they should wait until everything was up, built and operating, or take the plunge early?
“The reality is that we wanted to take the lead for our product and on behalf of our members,” he said, with a decision to go holus bolus into hosting Dreamtime 2017.
“The whole strategy was getting key decision makers to experience the city. We travel to tradeshows around the world and talk about Brisbane but it’s a city that needs to be experienced. It’s not as high profile as a Sydney or a Singapore but it’s got so much to offer.
“What we’re hearing from the market that as great Australia is in incentives – and Sydney has been a real trailblazer and we take our hat off to them – the market is looking for something fresh, something youthful, something young, and that’s us.
“We made our decision and we went hard in bidding for Dreamtime and now here it is and we think that the effort will be worth it.”
Talking to some international buyers attending we can’t help but agree.
Sean Kingwell from Glow Event Management and Holly Roberts of Our Live, both from the UK, were blown away by the city and their experiences in it.
As Australians we forget how much visitors are excited to see kangaroos and koalas, with Sean and Holly lining up to pat, photograph and hold a koala at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, just 15 minutes out of town.
And then, because this is Dreamtime, Sean, Holly, and their UK counterparts, cruised back to the city down the Brisbane River on a spectacularly well-appointed boat past million dollar homes, sipping on champagne and sampling locally grown oysters and fresh salads. It was the entrée for a progressive lunch that concluded back in town.
“I’ve seen pictures of it (Brisbane) but have never been here and I’m actually really, really impressed. I would definitely bring my clients here. One hundred per cent,” Sean said.
“And the regeneration that is going on is amazing,” adds Holly.
“OMG this place over here (Howard Smith Wharves), I saw drawings of it yesterday and it looks incredible,” Sean said.
“I’m glad Brisbane won the pitch to deliver Dreamtime. Brits just think well you come to Australia you go to Sydney. Coming here has really opened my eyes on what else there is,” Holly said.
“I think if you’re coming all the way to Australia you wouldn’t just come to one city. I think I would do Sydney, Brisbane and the Barrier Reef. That’s how I’m thinking at the moment: three nights Sydney, three nights here, and three nights on the Barrier Reef,” added Sean.
“What we’ve done today I would do with my clients.”
Other groups, divided by their countries of origin, participated in a variety of activities: a personalised tour of the Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art, a “green cab” cycle along the river, a visit to Kooroomba Lavender Farm, and lunch at Sirromet Winery.
It culminated in the final night dinner before hosted buyers took off around Australia for post-Dreamtime experiences.
Keeping it real
Those other little touches that I mentioned included the participation in the program of some of Brisbane’s locals and those who have strong ties to the city, all done with little formality or fanfare. At drinks at the urban cool rooftop bar, Eleven, our group rubbed shoulders with Brisbane boy and boxing welterweight title holder Jeff Horn, now Brisbane resident and world-renowned ballet dancer, Li Cunxin, and local event hero, Marianne Edmonds of Loud Events.
At the casual welcome event at River Bar & Kitchen, celebrated Australian chef and owner, Matt Moran, spoke briefly about his passion for showing the world the great Australian food scene and quality produce.
And on the final night, award-winning musician and Brisbane girl, Katie Noonan, played an intimate solo set.
Returning to their rooms each evening, hosted buyers and media had gift packs waiting for them with some unique locally crafted pieces and essentials like sunscreen, hats, and sunglasses.
But it was the people that really made it special. There was a genuine desire by those working on Dreamtime, particularly the team from Brisbane Marketing, to showcase their city in the most favourable light. And they did that and more.
As usual, the food at the Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre was first-class during the opening day’s business sessions. Even the bus drivers were extremely friendly and accommodating.
It was a professional event that will only bolster the profile of the city and Australia as a serious global leader in programs of this kind and especially incentive travel rewards.
And, in showcasing our country so well, challenges like the distance we are from the rest of the world, appear as if they too can be overcome as Glow Event Management’s Sean Kingwell pointed out during his visit.
“Now they’ve got the Perth [UK direct] flight, that’s a game-changer. That in itself is something that would appeal to my clients – travel on the longest flight in the world. What is it? Seventeen hours or something. Maybe you could do two nights in Perth and then bring them to Sydney and travel up the coast.
“And then you arrive at this. We’ve been very lucky.”