It’s only natural…

Queensland’s Tourism Minister Kate Jones and Leanne Coddington, chief executive of Tourism and Events Queensland, explain how the state’s natural environment helps make it ‘the best address on earth’

Fresh from the successful hosting of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games, the Australian State of Queensland has a fresh appetite and enthusiasm for hosting sports events, according to State Tourism Minister Kate Jones.

And with Queensland’s It’s Live! in Queensland Event Calendar now contributing some A$0.78bn (€0.49bn/$0.56bn) to the Queensland economy, it is not difficult to understand the commercial imperative driving investment in attracting high-value major events to the State’s range of diverse towns and cities.

Held in April this year across four Queensland cities, the Commonwealth Games provided a rigorous test of the State’s facilities, infrastructure and management capabilities. In the lead up to the Games Queensland benefited from a A$200m investment in new and redeveloped sport infrastructure which will equip the city to stage national and international events in the years ahead.

With more than 6,000 athletes and officials from 71 countries, Gold Coast 2018 was a true global mega event and the hosts passed the test with flying colours.

But, says Jones, the broader contribution made by properly managed, delivered and leveraged sports events can be every bit as important as the economic impacts they generate. “While events certainly add to the value of our economy we are really quite tough in our approach about which events we support and how we leverage them,” she said.

“That’s because we look beyond the economic benefits to ensure further value can be leveraged including showcasing our hero tourism experiences and destinations, trade and investment outcomes, promoting health and physical activity, building community pride and driving social justice outcomes.

“For example, GC2018 was the largest Commonwealth Games ever and for the first time, saw an equal number of medal events for men and women. Likewise, we implemented the first ever Reconciliation Action Plan for an event of this kind to ensure that First Nation Australians were fully engaged and involved.”

While the sports world may, currently, be more familiar with the Australian States of Victoria and New South Wales and their major cities of Melbourne and Sydney, Jones believes that Queensland offers fresh options.

“We are a very different sort of State,” she explained.

“First of all, we are not focused on a single major city. In Brisbane, Gold Coast, Townsville, Cairns, Sunshine Coast and others we have a variety of towns, cities, each of which has something different to offer.

“Tourism is a key part of Queensland’s offering and we know that when people visit for an event they are likely to extend their stay before and after because there is so much to see and experience. We have a great climate and a unique natural environment that is easily accessible from all of our key event hosting towns and cities. For example, no other place on earth has the Great Barrier Reef.”

That strategy will be seen in action next year at the National Rugby League’s (NRL) inaugural ‘Magic Round’ when all 16 NRL Premiership teams will play in a series of double-headers from Thursday through Sunday at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium. In all the event is expected to generate 300,000 tourist bed nights and A$60m for the local economy over the three-year deal.

Across the State the sporting menu is varied and tempting, ranging from top level international cricket, tennis and track cycling in Brisbane to professional golf, surfing, motorsport and marathon events on the Gold Coast, the Ironman and Great Barrier Reef Masters Games in tropical North Queensland, and yachting’s Hamilton Island Race Week, which attracts entries from all over the world to the Whitsunday Islands. To this you can add a host of mass participation endurance events including marathons, triathlons and cycling events for which Queensland has become famous.

A landmark event next year will be hosting SportAccord 2019. “Hosting SportAccord 2019 on the Gold Coast is a strategic move to further showcase Queensland’s capabilities.

“Bringing the decision makers of world sport to the Gold Coast for SportAccord is the next step in securing major international events for the city and our state, with the benefits of securing events potentially setting us up over the next ten years.”

As chief executive of Tourism and Events Queensland, Leanne Coddington has a clear mission: ‘To inspire the world to experience the best address on earth.’

And sports events are a key element of the proposition designed to draw visitors from across Australia, Asia and the rest of the world to a State which boasts breath-taking natural environments and a bulging portfolio of sports events.

The importance of the visitor economy is evident from the stats. It accounts for some A$25bn (eight per cent) of Queensland’s Gross State Product and, with a workforce of around 217,000. Of this some A$780m is generated through the current events calendar but there is a longer-term ambition to double that figure.

Coddington is confident that she has the best tools to work with – Queensland, its environment, its infrastructure and a strategic approach to leverage its competitive advantage. And she agrees with Jones that the range of locations offered by the State is a significant advantage.

Queensland is, she explains, about hospitality and a lifestyle that revolves around climate and the natural environments that form the backdrop for many sports events, particularly mass participation endurance events.

“Our environment encourages participants in endurance events such as triathlon, to not just come and compete but to bring their families and extend their stay before and after the race to maximise their experience,” she said.

This year’s Commonwealth Games has equipped the Gold Coast and Queensland more broadly with a stock of facilities and delivery expertise which will enable it to compete for hosting rights on the world stage.

“The infrastructure, both in terms of new-build and redevelopment has enabled us to go hard on creating new opportunities for a range of sports. For example, we hosted Gymnastics Australia’s National Club Carnival for the first time on the Gold Coast [after luring the event away from Victoria] at two of the new facilities built for the Commonwealth Games. The event’s move to Gold Coast saw the event attract some 3,800 gymnasts plus their families, a significant year-on-year increase for the event.

“While new facilities have allowed us to look at these sorts of events on a national and international scale (the same venues hosted the 2017 BWF Sudirman Cup), the halo effect of the Games and the natural appeal of our State to event participants and spectators alike, are equally driving great outcomes for national and international federations, rights-holders and promoters.”

“We are focused on achieving our objectives through strategic partnerships that both include the event organiser or rights-holder as well as delivery partners such as municipal councils and venue operators.

“Naturally we are looking for the broadest possible audience and we want to continue to build a really diverse events calendar with events across the state.” Maximising the value from events and offering the best experience to visitors are often two sides of the same coin and Coddington says that her team consistently look to develop synergies around the Events Calendar.

Last year’s WBO welterweight showdown between local hero Jeff Horn and Manny Pacquiao in Brisbane provided a positive if unusual example. The fight, which drew 51,000 to Suncorp Stadium, was scheduled for the same weekend as the IAAF Gold Label Gold Coast Marathon and a major arts festival.

“The result was a maxed-out weekend across both Brisbane and the Gold Coast,” said Coddington, with local media reporting over 90 per cent hotel occupancy across both regions and a combined direct economic impact of nearly A$50m.

“When it comes to sport we are anything but one dimensional in the scale and diversity of the events we can and do host,” she said.

“This is a state which can host world championship level mountain biking , surfing, motorsport, world championship triathlon, road and track cycling events or big stadium sports equally well and professionally. Our USP is the ability to host any genre of sport in the most amazing environments which delivers the ultimate visitor experience.”

Q&A with Courtney Atkinson

In many ways Olympic triathlete, iron man and all-round adventurer and endurance athlete Courtney Atkinson is the embodiment of Queensland Sport. We caught up with him to discuss how the state shaped his career and what it offers the world.

What makes Queensland special for sport?
I’ve lived here all my life and I’m a proud Queenslander. This is a place where the climate and the environment impact directly on the way people live and creates a sporting culture.

I grew up here and my early life was based around running, swimming and cycling which was how I was able to become a professional triathlete for 15 years and compete in two Olympic Games.

The climate in Queensland means that you can be outdoors all year round and the environment itself is a major factor in sports development. Most of us are never more than a few kilometres from the beach and learned to swim from the earliest age.

It’s no coincidence that the majority of the Australian swim team have been from Queensland. There’s also a world class stock of stadia and other facilities which regularly host top level regional, national and international events.

How does that impact on Queensland’s offer to the sports world?
The fact is that we develop athletes at home because of the culture and lifestyle but many others come here to take advantage of exactly the same things. It’s a great place to train as well as compete and individual athletes and teams come here because of that.

As a result, we also have developed a great support infrastructure for elite level performers, which includes the Queensland Academy of sport in Brisbane and its satellite location on the Gold Coast.

So, what’s your message to the world about Queensland and sport?
Simply: this is a place you need to discover. The climate and environment are outstanding, the atmosphere is easy going and there are so many reasons to visit. Most of all this is the home of Australian elite sport with great facilities and support services. In short, it’s a winner.

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