Queensland’s capital is celebrating 40 years since the Brisbane Visitors and Convention Bureau was established, with plenty to crow about since that auspicious day in 1978.
General manager of the business events team within Brisbane Marketing, Juliet Alabaster, wasn’t even born when the Brisbane Visitors and Convention Bureau was established.
She was, however, around when the city took off as a destination in its own right when it played host to World Expo 88.
But it wasn’t until a few years later – 1995 – that it really hit its straps for business events when the Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre officially opened for business.
Today business events is a significant driver of the Brisbane economy, generating more than $257 million per annum in economic impact.
And, as Ms Alabaster explains, the Brisbane Marketing Business Events team plays a significant role in that, recording its best year ever in terms of bid wins in 2017/8.
“Back in 1978 we didn’t have a lot of infrastructure in Brisbane. Expo paved the way for the Southbank parklands area which has now evolved into a thriving cultural, entertainment and dining hub,” Ms Alabaster explains.
“When the convention centre was built in 1995 that really accelerated our ability to attract national and international conferences, particularly of scale.
In the last decade at Brisbane Marketing, Ms Alabaster says she has seen a major shift and greater sophistication of the bidding process and working far closer with industry sectors and local hosts and really leveraging Brisbane’s expertise in a variety of disciplines and converting those into bringing more business events to the city.
“Within the last financial year we won bids totalling $96 million.”
And thanks to hosting Tourism Australia’s Dreamtime event in 2017, there is also growth in the incentive sector.
“What’s been fantastic is that we did Dreamtime, we got rave reviews and we’ve been able to continue the momentum in talking to attendees by being able to showcase all the new infrastructure that we have had come on line since then: the W Brisbane, Novotel Southbank, Adina Apartments, Emporium Hotel, The Calile, The Westin, and then of course Howard Smith Wharves.
“We’re working on some leads out of the UK at the moment [from Dreamtime] and we’re really working hard on China and a few others in South East Asia. We have some bids on the table at the moment.”
The other big event that really helped to put Brisbane on the international stage was the G20 Leaders Summit in 2014 attended by world leaders including then US President Barack Obama.
“The event was incident free and there was excellent feedback on the centre and how the city as a whole worked together to achieve such a great outcome. G20 was definitely another big milestone in our evolution.”
The business events team has also been working hard to create closer ties with specialist academics and leaders in different industry sectors, and in the last 12 months has had great success with the Lord Mayor Convention Trailblazer Grants in which recipients can receive up to $5000 to attend an international conference with a view to bringing the conference to Brisbane at a later date.
“What’s been fantastic about that is not only being able to assist people to get overseas to specialist conferences but we can really see the benefit to their careers as well as the industry here in Brisbane from attending a conference to bidding for it.”
General manager of the Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre, Bob O’Keeffe, said Brisbane Marketing had played an integral role in furthering the reputation of Brisbane as a leading international business events destination and partnering with the BCEC in attracting major high profile conferences to Brisbane and Queensland.
“With Brisbane on a fast trajectory of infrastructure development and with increased competition both within Australia and internationally, we look forward to continuing our strong and collaborative partnership to help secure major conferences into the future,” he said.