This time last year the Gold Coast was on the verge of hosting its biggest event in history; the 2018 Commonwealth Games. There was much anticipation, excitement and no doubt a whole lot of anxiety. Would we meet expectations? Those self imposed and those that just come naturally from hosting an event of this magnitude?
I believe the majority of stakeholders would agree that the Gold Coast not only met expectations but raised the bar. Our city was on show to the world; our facilities, seamless transport networks and enviable stunning environment left both athletes and spectators in awe.
Some economists and residents living in cities that host events such as the Olympics and Commonwealth Games, rightly believe there is a danger that the benefits are only short term; that once the athletes and media pack up and go home, the infrastructure created will be unused with the potential of millions of dollars going to waste.
This has not been the case with the Gold Coast. Our city hosting the 2018 Commonwealth Games was really just the beginning; the beginning of a long term strategy that has taken a city, once perceived to be a destination built on scantily clad chicks and theme parks, to a city now recognised as one of the world’s top event destinations.
For the sceptics that believe this statement to be far fetched; it is actually already happening. The Gold Coast recently claimed the title of one of the world’s top event destinations for the second year running, by the International Festivals and Events Associations (IFEA). This is a great accolade for our city, however, the tangible on ground opportunities for cementing and growing this reputation are ten-fold.
From July 2019 the City of Gold Coast will construct a new Major Events Team and, in doing so, a strategy that will focus on growing the economic impact of our existing major events and positioning the city at the forefront to host new ones. It is essential for the growth of the Gold Coast to focus on this sector of tourism. The Gold Coast is not enriched with history and nor does it have iconic landmarks such as the Sydney Opera House, Harbour Bridge or Tower of London.
As all corners of the world get easier to access,the fight for the tourism dollar is increasing and becomes more competitive; being considered as a global event destination is one sure fire way to secure a sector of the major events tourism dollars.
You cannot fabricate an 'events city' status. It takes years and a hell of a lot of investment to get the right combination of infrastructure, accessibility, transport systems and accommodation requirements; just the initial mandatory building blocks. Add to this, a stunning natural environment; an increase in tourists, both domestic and international, who wish to visit, and the experience of having delivered events on a global magnitude, certainly contributes to moving a city up the prospect ladder.
The Gold Coast has all of the above in abundance.
As residents we are spoilt for choice with an events calendar rich in festivals, cultural and sporting events. Whilst for some, these just add a bit of colour and motivation to get up from behind our latest Netflix binge, the core purpose of events goes way beyond being entertained.
It all comes down to economic impact.
In context to a major event, this refers to the total amount of additional expenditure generated within a defined area, as a direct consequent of staging that event. The economic benefits are split across several sectors e.g. hospitality, retail, design innovation, promotion to name a few.
Take one of Australia’s best and most globally recognised events; The Australian Open. In 2018 this single event, over fourteen days, attracted 680,000 visitors and a staggering $240 million in direct spend as those visitors wined and dined, shopped, caught transport, and stayed in accommodation across Melbourne.
This Grand Slam attracted 300 players and their entourage, 1500 journalists, photographers and broadcast media from 43 countries around the world. All of which need somewhere to stay and eat for their stay.
As I write, I am sitting by the harbour in Sydney whilst meeting up with friends from the GBR team from Sail GP, a new intense F50 sailing event on Sydney Harbour. Eight international teams are competing in this new sailing spectacular that will be televised around the world next weekend.
In the GBR team alone there are 25 people who arrived in Sydney last weekend. That is 25 rooms in the Hilton Hotel for a 14-night stay. Breakfast, lunch and dinner for 25 people for 14 nights. 25 people shopping in their down-time, using local networks, transport, tweeting and using instagram to share their Aussie time and experience with friends and fans around the world. This is just one team. Multiply this by eight and then consider the technical crew of 150 and the broadcast media value for Sydney over the race weekend. A pretty significant economic impact for Sydney for a brand new sailing event.
Keeping Great Britain top of mind, Visit Britain has dedicated tourism category aptly named ‘Football Tourists’ focused on visitors attending English League games. On average each year this one tourism sector contributed 706 million pounds to the economy with an average individual spend 30% more than non-sporting tourists who visited at the same time. Focused strategic marketing efforts are tailored for this one tourism sector because the economic impact cannot afford to be lost.
Closer to home when the Australian Government spent $1.5 million to get Tiger Woods to appear at the Australian Masters they copped a lot of criticism (probably for reasons other than the money!). However, that one visit alone contributed a whopping $34 million in economic spin-offs. Pretty simple maths equation.
Groundwater Country Music Festival on the Gold Coast, was last week elevated to Major Event Status by Tourism and Events Queensland, one of only five events on the Gold Coast to boast this status. This is purely due to the economic impact that this three-day festival has directly on the Gold Coast region. Not bad for a festival just six years old. After a successful re-brand in 2018, US country sensation Granger Smith decided to wear his new Groundwater Country Music Festival cap on a segment of his US Tour instantly creating awareness of this fairly new festival Down Under to eight million fans!
The Gold Coast has all the elements in place to continue its journey to become one of the world’s top event destinations. Consistent communication to those who will benefit the most will also assist in creating a collaborative approach to its journey.
Not only will this provide substantial economic benefit to residents and businesses in the city but also create opportunities to continue to enhance and promote the Gold Coast brand to all stakeholders involved, so that we can all celebrate and share a clear and compelling story about a vibrant, youthful city that can now not only play with the big boys, but really is in a league of its own.