Regardless of the presence of US Vice President Mike Pence and a huge security detail in and around Hilton Cairns (preferring a TNQ sleepover to PNG during APEC), the annual Sell TNQ managed to avoid the secret service kerfuffle as business events delegates and media from Australia and New Zealand went to Port Douglas.

Sell TNQ’s usual full-day speed dating session between buyers/media and sellers was held for the first time, and to delegate acclaim, aboard a 60 metre vessel Quicksilver 8, well beyond roadblocks, prying eyes, FBIs and earnest types speaking into their cufflinks.

It was only after the VIP dormitory had been vacated that Sell TNQ returned to Cairns to hear that Mrs Pence had been out and about on the reef, taking in a Tjapukai indigenous performance and photo-bombing a wedding.

Meanwhile the VP’s minions were on a Goldilocks mission: testing chairs in nearby hotels to find one suitable for the Vice-Presidential backside.

And despite some initial misgivings by one hotel GM as a pair of seats that were ‘just right’ were identified, their swift return was guaranteed by another GM – so hotel diplomacy prevailed.

Meanwhile more serious business was underway at Sell TNQ as it showcased Cairns’ biggest business events infrastructure investment in decades.

The city’s first resort-style hotel named Riley, plus two more new hotels from Crystalbrook Group, a new aquarium and Hemingway’s Brewery beside the cruise terminal were all multi-million dollar additions in 2018.

Then, along with the new infrastructure, we learned of numerous hotel refurbishments and re-brandings as other properties look to pick up the pace.

General manager of Business Events Cairns & Great Barrier Reef Rosie Douglas agreed with comments we heard that it had been ‘a tough year’, adding that it had also been a good year.

“We were down slightly with conferences and that is pretty traditional with this market; it does ebb and flow,” she said.

“But the pleasing thing was when we looked at how many delegates came into the region and how long they stayed, which is really what we measure the economic benefit of, the meetings were larger and they stayed longer… so the net effect was positive.”

Rosie also noted that four hotels were unavailable due to refurbishment and the convention centre was out for six weeks because it was hosting Commonwealth Games events.