From chilled surf­ing hotspot to host of 2018’s up­com­ing Com­mon­wealth Games, Aus­tralia’s Gold Coast is bank­ing on a sunny fu­ture for both tourism and the events in­dus­try. Va­le­rian Ho in­ves­ti­gates

Business Traveller (Middle East) - - Contents -

Queens­land con­tin­ues to make waves among MICE del­e­gates

Ashort hop south of Brisbane on Aus­tralia’s east­ern coast, the 57km stretch of pris­tine beach­front coast­line known as the Gold Coast is bathed in glo­ri­ous sun­shine for more than 300 days a year. Be­hind its beach­front vis­age, how­ever, the once sleepy sea­side town has grown into a boom­ing me­trop­o­lis – the sixth largest in Aus­tralia.

Served by two in­ter­na­tional air­ports – Gold Coast In­ter­na­tional Air­port (OOL) and Brisbane In­ter­na­tional Air­port (BNE) – the city wel­comed a record-break­ing 1.1 mil­lion in­ter­na­tional trav­ellers for busi­ness and leisure last year.

In April, the Gold Coast will gain even more in­ter­na­tional ex­po­sure when it hosts the 2018 Com­mon­wealth Games. The 11-day elite com­pe­ti­tion will be the sec­ond-largest sport­ing event ever held in Aus­tralia (af­ter the Syd­ney Olympics in 2000), wel­com­ing 6,600 ath­letes and team of­fi­cials from 70 na­tions and ter­ri­to­ries.

As a global event of ma­jor sig­nif­i­cance, it has re­ceived more than A$1 billion (US$785 mil­lion) in gov­ern­ment fund­ing for the con­struc­tion of venues such as the Com­mon­wealth Vil­lage and Car­rara Sports Precinct. Ma­jor in­fras­truc­tural up­grades have also taken place, in­clud­ing a light-rail ex­ten­sion and var­i­ous road im­prove­ments, while pri­vate sec­tor in­vest­ments have fol­lowed thick and fast, with a raft of new ac­com­mo­da­tion venues, event fa­cil­i­ties and en­ter­tain­ment op­tions.

This burst of ac­tiv­ity has fu­elled a boom in the city’s three dom­i­nant economies – tourism, con­struc­tion and real es­tate – as well as pro­vid­ing lu­cra­tive op­por­tu­ni­ties for other rapidly emerg­ing in­dus­tries.

One sec­tor primed to make the most of the spot­light is the meet­ings, con­fer­ence and events (MICE) sec­tor. “The Gold Coast 2018 Com­mon­wealth Games is the largest event Aus­tralia will see this decade, and the op­por­tu­ni­ties for busi­ness events to tap into the spin-off ben­e­fits the event gen­er­ates are very ex­cit­ing,” says Anna Case, di­rec­tor of Gold Coast Busi­ness Events.

The Games couldn’t come at a bet­ter time for the MICE in­dus­try, which is al­ready strength­en­ing at pace. The num­ber of meet­ings and con­fer­ences in the Gold Coast last year in­creased 21 per cent in the 12 months up to June 30, 2016, in the process in­ject­ing an es­ti­mated A$565 mil­lion (US$443 mil­lion) into the lo­cal econ­omy – not in­clud­ing pre-and post-event spend­ing.

The health and med­i­cal sec­tors in par­tic­u­lar seem to en­joy the Gold Coast’s ap­peal, con­tribut­ing more than A$1.5 billion (US$1.2 billion) in an­nual rev­enue ac­cord­ing to Lau­ren Mc­gann, busi­ness devel­op­ment man­ager of the Gold Coast Con­ven­tion and Ex­hi­bi­tion Cen­tre (GCCEC). “The med­i­cal and science mar­kets are grow­ing and be­com­ing more pop­u­lar in Gold Coast, be­cause it has fa­cil­i­ties such as the hospi­tal, four uni­ver­si­ties and a Health and Knowl­edge Precinct,” she says.

In­deed, some of the largest con­fer­ences the Gold Coast has hosted have been in the health in­dus­try, a high­light be­ing the 7,000-strong del­e­ga­tion from Amway China, with more planned for the com­ing year in­clud­ing the Nu Skin Korea BDMS Suc­cess Trip sched­uled for April 2018.


Broad­beach is the main busi­ness dis­trict and home to the GCCEC, which rakes in over A$200 mil­lion (US$157 mil­lion) an­nu­ally. The 10,000 sqm ex­hi­bi­tion cen­tre fea­tures four ex­hi­bi­tion halls, 22 meet­ing rooms and a mas­sive arena which can ac­com­mo­date 6,000 guests. It also has 2,000 sqm of park­land space for all kinds of ac­tiv­i­ties, from cock­tail par­ties on the front lawn to river­side events. An­other key fa­cil­ity is Seaworld Re­sort and Con­fer­ence Cen­tre. Not many venues can match Seaworld when it comes to post-meet­ing wind-downs. The re­sort pro­vides a range of un­usual ex­pe­ri­ences, from ex­clu­sive dol­phin shows to a lo­cal school choir per­for­mance – and spe­cial guests can even be greeted by a sea lion. The theme park’s rides and char­ac­ters also pro­vide a spe­cial treat for post-con­fer­ence and in­cen­tive groups. How­ever, with the mo­men­tum driven by the Com­mon­wealth Games, a slew of new fa­cil­i­ties are in the off­ing.“We’re see­ing an in­cred­i­ble in­jec­tion of new in­fra­struc­ture that will bring a last­ing legacy to the busi­ness events in­dus­try with new event space and up­graded venues,” says Case. Con­nected to the GCCEC by a cov­ered walk­way is The Star Gold Coast (for­merly Jupiter’s Ho­tel – a Gold Coast in­sti­tu­tion since it opened in 1985). The re­branded fa­cil­ity of­fers a pil­lar­less ball­room cater­ing to 1,800 guests, an out­door Pavil­ion Mar­quee with pool­side events space, the newly re­fur­bished Pavil­ion Lawn that of­fers a stun­ning out­door set­ting, and a 2,150-seat the­atre ca­pa­ble of host­ing large con­certs. By 2020, a new ho­tel and res­i­den­tial tower is set to open, rep­re­sent­ing an in­vest­ment of A$850 mil­lion (US$667 mil­lion). Ad­di­tions will in­clude a “six-star lux­ury ho­tel”, due to open be­fore the Games, plus an ad­di­tional ho­tel and apart­ment tower to bring the re­sort’s to­tal num­ber of gue­strooms to al­most 1,400.

Also in the pipe­line are an­other cou­ple of gems, which will bring new ac­com­mo­da­tion, en­ter­tain­ment and event space to the area. The gi­ant Chi­nese con­glom­er­ate Wanda Group is set to open the Jewel in 2018, a mixed-use devel­op­ment build­ing spread over three tow­ers that will of­fer a five-star Wanda Vista Ho­tel and ser­viced apart­ments. Other fa­cil­i­ties will in­clude con­fer­ence rooms, restau­rants, bars and en­ter­tain­ment fa­cil­i­ties.

An­other A$1.4 billion (US$1.1 billion) integrated res­i­den­tial and re­sort project called Ruby will also be a game changer when it opens in time for the Com­mon­wealth Games, adding over a thousand apart­ments to the Surfers Par­adise area plus event space and en­ter­tain­ment choices such as an ice-skat­ing rink and climb­ing wall.


Aside from in­fra­struc­ture, what the Gold Coast re­ally has in spades is a ready-made arsenal of tempt­ing in­cen­tives to treat large event groups or in­di­vid­ual trav­ellers. From golden beaches that host the leg­endary Quik­sil­ver Pro Gold Coast surf­ing cham­pi­onships each year, to World Her­itage-listed rain­forests teem­ing with bio­di­ver­sity, the city is blessed with beau­ti­ful nat­u­ral

as­sets just a 30-minute ride from the city cen­tre. It also boasts a huge con­cen­tra­tion of at­trac­tions, from theme parks to an­i­mal sanc­tu­ar­ies and wa­ter ac­tiv­i­ties.

Coun­tries such as Sin­ga­pore, Malaysia, South Korea and Ja­pan have all shown strong ap­petites for the sun, surf and sand that the Gold Coast has in abun­dance, but China in par­tic­u­lar is lead­ing the way. In a re­cent sur­vey by Ctrip, China’s largest on­line travel agent, both Chi­nese leisure and busi­ness trav­ellers voted the Gold Coast as one of their top ten des­ti­na­tions in the world.

In May, the city is set to wel­come its big­gest in­cen­tive group ever, with 8,000 del­e­gates from In­fini­tus China – one of the largest per­sonal health care com­pa­nies in China. The week-long in­cen­tive pro­gramme is ex­pected to gen­er­ate more than A$50 mil­lion (US$39 mil­lion).

The itin­er­ary is be­ing pre­pared by Gold Coast Busi­ness Events and has been de­signed to show­case the high­lights of Aus­tralia, from na­tive an­i­mal ex­pe­ri­ences like feed­ing kan­ga­roos and cud­dling koalas, to bar­be­cues on out­back farms. Del­e­gates may also find them­selves rolling up their trousers to catch mud crabs from the river, whale spot­ting at Point Dan­ger, climb­ing the Sky­point for 360-de­gree views of the coast­line, plant­ing gum trees for the Save Koala foun­da­tion or don­ning a wet­suit and head­ing for a surf les­son.

“We’re in the best po­si­tion now to take ad­van­tage of the in­ter­na­tional focus on the Gold Coast with a re­newed of­fer­ing for groups to meet here,” says Case. “Our city has never looked bet­ter and in 2018, del­e­gates will ex­pe­ri­ence the un­mis­tak­able buzz of the city cho­sen to host the big­gest event in Aus­tralia this decade.”

This page from above: Gold Coast Con­ven­tion and Ex­hi­bi­tion Cen­tre; and the Surfers Par­adise coast­line Op­po­site: Sun, surf and a city sky­line

This page from top: A suite in The Star Gold Coast; The Star’s the­atre; and the GCCEC Op­po­site: The Star’s Pavil­ion Lawn

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