New general manager Kym Guesdon to bring a ‘different lens’ to BCEC

Kym Guesdon

CIM spoke with Kym Guesdon as she takes on her new role as general manager at Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre.

You come from an HR background – how will that shape your new role? I will bring a different lens to the role at this point in time. It’s a people centric business, whether you are a client, customer or team member and it is my intention to continue my focus on building on an already inclusive and supportive culture, to ensure the successful delivery of events.

It will take some time for our industry to navigate the post pandemic environment, but our team has demonstrated enormous resilience while remining intact, but challenges still exist particularly in regard to impacts on staffing levels and some supply chains.  

How important is the issue of sustainability both for the centre and Brisbane as a whole in attracting events? Sustainability is essential to the future of our industry and globally, so it is very high on the agenda for BCEC and ASM Global.

BCEC continually strives to be a leader in sustainability for the events industry and last year achieved EarthCheck Platinum Certification.

Everything we do operationally for the Centre, for our staff and for our clients is within the context of sustainability, whether it is reduction in Centre-wide energy demand through the installation of solar panels, reducing 40% of BCEC on Grey Street’s power requirements, or the installation of LED lighting and daylight harvesting, food wastage or sustainable procurement.

The Centre’s executive chef David Pugh is recognised Australia wide for a lifetime advocacy for the use of sustainable and ethical produce.

We also support the education of our future environmental leaders through a partnership with Tangalooma EcoMarines, an organisation which encourages the care of waterways and marine environment protection through school-based training.

BCEC was the very first convention centre in Australia to develop a carbon calculator back in 2008. We have been working on an updated version which will quantify emissions from events across the Centre’s entire operations as well as identifying options for the offset of emissions. We will be ready to launch the updated carbon calculator in the new financial year.

ASM Global’s corporate social responsibility program, ASM ACTS, is committed to ‘Investing in People, Protecting the Environment and Strengthening our Communities’, and through this program BCEC will continue to take action to reduce its footprint and uphold the three pillars of the ACTS Program.

How will the opening of the Queens Wharf development and pedestrian bridge impact the centre? Queens Wharf will be a significant player in the Brisbane landscape and we look forward to partnering with them, taking a whole of city approach as the world spotlight shines on Brisbane in the lead up to the Olympics.

Once opened there will be increased connectivity between the city and the South Bank precinct and we only see this as a benefit for the Centre, visitors and the precinct itself.  Our Brisbane partners work together for enhanced appeal and visitor attraction of the destination.

Things are rebounding quickly – is the centre set for some of its best years yet? We absolutely are set for some cracker years. May has just delivered the second-best month since we hosted G20 in 2014. This is due, in no small part to the team and, of course, our loyal clients. While we still face some post pandemic challenges, Team BCEC is stronger and more resilient as a result and to deliver May’s results is a testament to their hard work and commitment.

I recently attended a national industry conference and generally all agreed that, by the end of this year we would see the end of this ‘normalisation’ phase. I am happy to report that BCEC has a packed calendar going forward and we have a robust pipeline of forward bookings.  We are planning for strong activity for the next five to 10 years.

The Olympics is turbo charging the city’s infrastructure – how will that benefit the centre? Brisbane’s biggest infrastructure boom in history is in progress and will only increase with the planning and eventual execution of the 2032 Olympics. This will enhance our international appeal as a premier business events destination and attract more events. BCEC already has an Olympics Task Force and we look forward to working under Bob’s leadership as BCEC’s CEO and in his new role as COO Venue Operations, APAC. The Task Force will identify opportunities and innovations and will work with trusted partners to ensure the BCEC and Brisbane city has an Olympics legacy like no other.

What did you learn from former GM Bob O’Keeffe working with him over the years? Bob’s knowledge of the industry is vast and impressive. He is a true industry legend who lives up to the ideal and genuinely wants to share his knowledge and expertise – always for the greater good.

Over the years Bob has been an incredible mentor and leader for many – not just me. I personally have a deep gratitude to Bob for his mentoring and leadership. As a business events destination we owe him enormous gratitude for the economic benefit his leadership and know how has brought to the State over the last 28 plus years.

There are so many things I’ve learned from working with Bob, but can probably be summarised with four points – know when to pick up the phone; always know your numbers and make sure they are right; know who your trusted advisors are, keep them close and tight and seek their counsel whenever you can; and know when to fight the good fight and go in strong and confident and make sure you are equipped with the knowledge and know how.