Brisbane in two words – sports and sun. That was TIME’s distillation of the Queensland capital it placed in its coveted ‘World’s Greatest Places of 2023’ list. And really, it’s not a bad take on the city that is set to host the Olympic Games in 2032 and has an enviable climate that most overseas visitors think the whole of Australia has year-round but doesn’t.
“It’s also about time!” said Brisbane Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner.
“Time magazine’s acknowledgement is another example of the world recognising that Brisbane just keeps getting better.”
Lord mayors can sometimes lean towards hyperbole but in this case it’s fair to say he’s not wrong. Brisbane has been forging its own path on the global stage for a while now and it appears the world is taking notice.
So just what exactly is getting the world’s attention? Well, the $3.6 billion dollar Queen’s Wharf integrated resort development has a gravitational pull all of its own. Set to cut the ribbon later this year, this hugely ambitious project will be home to four luxury hotels, kicking off with The Star Grand hotel this year followed by Dorsett hotel and Australia’s only 6-star Rosewood hotel.
Throw in a huge rooftop venue with stunning views, 50 bars and restaurants and a new pedestrian bridge that connects the whole precinct to the buzzing South Bank and hey presto, global attention is a given.
Anthony Ryan, CEO at Brisbane Economic Development Agency (BEDA), has been to four international markets this year, coming back with a sense of what Brisbane offers to overseas visitors.
“The thing they are telling us is the excitement around the opening of Queen’s Wharf and the $7 billion of investment in transport infrastructure to make Brisbane a more efficient and sustainable city,” he said.
“The precincts are starting to develop, creating this night-time economy which also drives further interest and therefore inquisitiveness of what we can offer in an event space.”
Howard Smith Wharves remains a perennial favourite but there are other precincts popping up including the James Street Precinct in Fortitude Valley. Anchored by the Calile Hotel, the precinct is home to an eclectic mix of fine and casual dining, cafes and bars and boutiques.
Rivermakers is Brisbane’s newest lifestyle precinct offering dining, entertainment and creative hubs, spread across 30 hectares of historic riverfront.
Michael Irvine, from Rivermakers, says that to date local businesses have been the predominant user of the event spaces but they are looking to expand their profile.
“After opening up the heritage buildings for the first time to the public in their more than 100-year life, we now have the opportunity to open up an additional 250 metres of Riverfront to the people of Brisbane which would create a linking connection between the two parks,” he said.
The Thomas Dixon Centre is another precinct worth checking out. The former boot and shoe factory has been transformed into a world-class performing arts destination and cultural precinct, which is also home to state ballet company, Queensland Ballet. There is a 359-seat theatre, community spaces and gardens, making it a perfect venue for those looking to inject some culture and history into their event.
“In the coming years, our goal is to make the Thomas Dixon Centre a must visit destination for Queenslanders and visitors alike,” said Geoff Walshaw, Queensland Ballet director of finance and operations.
“Our site is a mix of heritage and contemporary architecture and is a truly spectacular venue to visit. There are a variety of spaces for businesses to choose from for their event, and being the home of one of the State’s major arts organisations brings with it a touch of magic.”
The Thomas Dixon Centre also offers a range of ways to integrate events with the Queensland Ballet including corporate workshops and ice breakers through its Ballet Moves Experience.
“Our studios are used by Queensland Ballet as the home company, as well as external hires such as meetings, and product launches,” said Walshaw.
Lorelle Chittick, BEDA’s General Manager of Tourism, Business and Major Events, says Brisbane was put on the incentive map thanks to Dreamtime in 2017. Since then, the city has chalked up some impressive incentive wins.
“We had some really wonderful wins up to pre-Covid and bid on a number of Chinese incentives, and we had two or three that actually realised prior to Covid,” she said.
“But during the pandemic we were still getting inquiries out of China and our team were still submitting bids.”
One of those bids was for Nu Skin 2024, which will see Brisbane welcome over 1,000 delegates from Nu Skin China to attend the organisation’s ultimate annual incentive trip for its top sales performers.
Lawrence Zeng, Nu Skin China’s event director, said Brisbane’s diverse MICE offering combined with its outdoor lifestyle made it the perfect delegate destination.
“We have chosen Brisbane amongst a few popular destinations because of Brisbane’s beautiful weather and various MICE resources, which will surely impress our attendees,” he said.
The key to winning more international events is air connectivity, something Brisbane, with help from the Queensland government’s aviation fund, has been actively pursuing.
“We have a strategic partnership with Brisbane Airport Corporation. Being a capital city, we hold most of the air capacity coming into Queensland, so that partnership has reaped great rewards,” said Chittick.
“Brisbane is the most well-connected city in Australia and ultimately should be the first point in Australia. Ultimately, once you arrive (from overseas) we connect to 53 other destinations around Australia and 30 of those are in Queensland.”
Late last year, United Airlines also debuted its direct service between San Francisco and Brisbane, marking the first route of its kind for an American carrier.
“There’s an infectious momentum behind Brisbane at the moment, creating a city alive with opportunity in every way,” Ryan said.