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Brisbane’s Perfect Climate for Business Events

Brisbane, Australia’s third-largest capital city, has experienced a huge influx of new tourism infrastructure, including hotel supply, with more to come in the way of a second airport runway and international cruise ship terminal opening this year.

Brisbane Marketing is Brisbane’s economic development board and houses the city’s convention bureau. Backed by Brisbane City Council, Brisbane Marketing’s mission is to identify and deliver the highest impact economic growth initiatives that will create employment opportunities and raise the living standards for the people of Brisbane.

Brisbane Marketing’s focus is to ensure the right strategies are in place to leverage this growth and build the city’s profile as a leading destination for business events.

“Financial year 2018–2019 was a record year for Brisbane Marketing in the economic value of business event bids secured with partners, including the Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre,” says Juliet Alabaster, General Manager of Business and Major Events at Brisbane Marketing.

“Over the same period, our city hosted more than 940 business events worth $351 million in economic value. This generated almost 580,000 delegate days, a 44 per cent increase in delegate days year-on-year. We’re focused on keeping this momentum by building upon our strategies to attract conferences and by raising our profile in the incentive space.

“Since hosting Tourism Australia’s international incentive showcase Dreamtime in late 2017, we’ve ramped up our incentive offering and see this as a significant opportunity to create economic impact for Brisbane.

“In 2019, we welcomed our largest ever incentive groups from China, and in July this year will welcome 4,500 travel industry representatives for Flight Centre Travel Group’s Global Gathering incentive event. We anticipate securing more incentive business as we continue to promote Brisbane as a place that offers the best of Australia in one perfect location.”

Brisbane, which has twice been named Australia’s Most Sustainable City (2014 & 2016), became the 50th city to join the Global Destination Sustainability Index (GDS-Index) in 2019 and ranked within the top 25.

Brisbane Marketing sees the GDS Index as an important step in growing its reputation as a destination serious about its sustainability offering and about reaching its goal of earning a Top 50 International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) ranking for hosting association meetings.

Many of Brisbane’s venues are active in sustainability, including the globally acclaimed Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre, which has won numerous awards for its approach to sustainability and waste reduction. The Centre’s Environmental and Sustainability Policy is backed by its Earthcheck Gold Standard Certification and commitments to recycling, achieving a positive social impact and minimising energy, waste and water consumption. An example is its organic waste dehydrator which reduces 200 kg of food waste by 85 per cent to produce a dry, nutrient-rich biomass which is used in the city’s parklands.

“Sustainability is critical to Brisbane’s global reputation, and the city’s environmental performance is backed by Brisbane City Council’s Brisbane. Clean, Green, Sustainable 2017–2031 vision,” says Juliet Alabaster.

Brisbane City Council is Australia’s largest carbon neutral organisation and was the first Australian city to release a Clean Air Strategy.

“Our city is also the most biodiverse city in Australia, with 35 per cent natural habitat cover, on track to grow this to 40 per cent by 2031. We are also a clean and green city, with almost 2,100 parks.”

Brisbane boasts a mix of global headquartered companies, home-grown businesses, and internationally recognised knowledge precincts and research centres.

“Brisbane’s businesses, knowledge precincts, research institutions and universities have a clear role in developing our businesses events sector because we are more successful in attracting conferences when we can demonstrate local expertise.”

“Our city is home to some of the world’s most talented people and ground-breaking research, so it makes sense to drive collaborations across institutions and industry sectors to build our business events industry, develop our knowledge economy and raise Brisbane’s profile internationally.”

An example of this is the Lord Mayor’s Convention Trailblazer Grant, which Brisbane Marketing launched in 2017. The initiative supports early career researchers and industry representatives to attend an international association conference in their field. In return, the Trailblazers work with Brisbane Marketing to bid for Brisbane to host the conference in a succeeding year.

“We recently announced the third round of Trailblazer Grant recipients and are now working with seven more inspiring researchers and professionals to attract more leading conferences to Brisbane.”

“Conference bids won through the initiative include the International Peptide Symposium 2021, which was secured with 2018 recipients Dr Christina Schroeder and Dr Johan Rosengren of the University of Queensland. To be held at the Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre, this symposium will deliver an economic impact of $2 million and attract over 800 experts from the United Kingdom, Europe, America, Asia and Australia to Brisbane for the first time.

“We also worked with the Clinical Director of pediatric hearing and healthcare not-for-profit, Hear and Say, Emma Rushbrooke, to secure the AG Bell Global Listening and Spoken Language Symposium for Brisbane in 2021.”

Brisbane’s focus on digital innovation also plays a role in securing business events. In 2012, Brisbane was the first Australian city and the second city in the world to appoint a Chief Digital Officer. The Digital Brisbane Strategy was then launched in 2013 to speed up the pace of change in Brisbane.

The start-up community has grown significantly, and Brisbane is now Australia’s second-largest city for start-up founders.

“Brisbane’s reputation for innovation doesn’t go unnoticed by conference organisers,” says Juliet Alabaster.

In late 2019, Brisbane hosted SIGGRAPH Asia, the region’s largest computer graphics conference and exhibition. The event saw the world’s top technical and creative talent come together for four days of discussions and demonstrations on emerging computer graphics and interactive techniques.

“This year, we hosted the second annual QODE Brisbane, where entrepreneurs, investors, business executives, government, researchers and start-ups from across the world gathered to explore technology and innovation trends.”

Bursting with positivity, confidence, a sustainable outlook and an appetite for innovation, Brisbane is clearly a business events destination to watch in 2020 and beyond.

Juliet Alabaster is General Manager of Business and Major Events with Brisbane’s economic development board, Brisbane Marketing. In this role, she leads a team generating long-term economic growth for Brisbane through the attraction and support of meetings, conferences and incentives, as well as major events including sporting blockbusters, cultural performances and exhibitions.

Growing up in the tourism industry, Juliet Alabaster went on to build a career in business events, developing a vast working knowledge of all aspects of event bidding, business development, services and promotion.

Working with Brisbane Marketing for over ten years, she has been instrumental in raising Brisbane’s profile as a world-class destination to visit, meet and do business. Juliet Alabaster has a Bachelor of Laws and a Bachelor of Business (Management) from The University of Queensland.

Photo: Juliet Alabaster, General Manager of Business and Major Events, Brisbane Marketing, photo by Brisbane Marketing.