Having welcomed the sporting world to Gold Coast for a SportAccord that has been hailed as the best yet just a year after hosting the Commonwealth Games, Queensland is now ready to build on solid foundations by looking to the future.
SportAccord, which was secured for the Gold Coast through a partnership between Tourism and Events Queensland, Tourism Australia, Gold Coast City Council and Destination Gold Coast, attracted 1,700 of the world’s most high-powered sporting executives for the annual gathering.
“There is no doubt this has been the best SportAccord ever, with delegates extremely impressed not only by the facilities on offer in Queensland but the relaxed lifestyle and the beautiful scenery of the Gold Coast,” SportAccord managing director Nis Hatt said.
“Many delegates have left the Gold Coast with the strong impression that Queensland is capable of hosting their future events and I’m sure we’ll start seeing the outcomes of the conversations had here in the weeks, months and years to come.”
New SportAccord President Raffaele Chiulli added: “Sport is in the DNA of the people in Gold Coast and Queensland and I am sure that SportAccord is just the beginning of a long-lasting relationship.”
Representatives from around 500 different international businesses, federations and rights-holders attended the week-long event at the Gold Coast Convention Centre, but the impact of hosting SportAccord on the Queensland economy is likely be long-term.
Tourism Industry Development Minister Kate Jones has indicated that, with Aus$60m in major events having been secured through last year’s edition of SportAccord, which took place in Bangkok, she is hopeful that hosting SportAccord this year will deliver even more.
“We invest in major events because they pump millions of dollars into our economy and create local jobs. This was the first time Australia has hosted the world’s foremost sporting events conference,” she said.
“Hosting world leaders like International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach and former United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon – SportAccord has given us a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to show the leading decision-makers in international sport everything we have to offer.
“Since 2015, we’ve more than doubled the value of our major events calendar which will this year generate $800m for Queensland. We hope to secure up to $100m worth of events for the state as a result of hosting SportAccord.”
Last year’s acclaimed Commonwealth Games also highlighted Queensland’s event-hosting credentials to a wide audience.
Commonwealth Games Federation president Louise Martin said: “The Commonwealth Games certainly shone the spotlight on the whole of the state and the well-proven capabilities of Queenslanders to stage outstanding sporting and cultural events. The Gold Coast, Brisbane, Townsville and Cairns all shared the Games hosting duties and delivered remarkable results.”
For the Gold Coast alone, the impact of sport on the local community has been dramatic, aside from establishing a pool of volunteers who have an appetite to support any future events on the calendar.
According to Tom Tate, City of Gold Coast Mayor, direct investment of more than Aus$2bn, significant free-to-air publicity and a wider package of more than Aus$10bn committed to projects before and after the Games have helped to transform the city’s outlook. The ITU World Triathlon Grand Final, international Twenty20 cricket and the FAI World Parachuting Championships were among the events to land in the city following the multi-sport event, with the 2020 World Bowls Championships and the 2024 ILS Lifesaving World Championships in the pipeline.
However, the impact stretches well beyond Gold Coast and, after having hosted one of the world’s largest multi-sport events last year and then the most prestigious annual gathering in sport this year, the question for Queensland in terms of its event-hosting aspirations is: what’s next?
The state is seeking to secure more new high-value major events, those which will drive significant levels of interstate and international visitation and therefore contribute to the Queensland economy.
A perfect example came within days of SportAccord, when the first-ever National Rugby League Magic Round took place in Brisbane, attracting a significant number of out-of-state visitors.
“We back events that support local jobs and help to grow our tourism industry. The Magic Round did just that,” Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said.
“There were some quality games throughout the round but the real winner was Queensland – with around one quarter of attendees coming from interstate and overseas. This has provided a huge boost to our tourism industry.”
Almost 135,000 people packed into Suncorp Stadium over four days, with another 3.8 million watching the games on television, underlining the huge interest in the landmark event.
Jones added: “On day one, New South Wales declared they would try to poach the event off Queensland. This is a testament to the event’s success. But the Magic Round isn’t going anywhere – with a three-year deal in place to keep the fixture in Queensland.
“Brisbane boasts the country’s best rectangular stadium which is located right in the middle of a world-class entertainment precinct. This allows fans to enjoy their footy and experience the very best of Brisbane’s outdoor dining culture and lifestyle.”
The trajectory with regard to events in Queensland is certainly positive. Whereas only five years ago, Queensland’s Events Calendar generated about Aus$300m per year for the state, this year the calendar is expected to deliver around Aus$800m.
While the extent to which a major event will attract domestic and international visitors is paramount, Queensland is also on the look-out for events that showcase the state’s many and varied experiences to a global audience and engage with the local community effectively to leave behind genuine legacy.
In addition, Queensland has made no secret of the fact that events that provide a “synergy” between the sport and the state will be of particular interest.
A deep partnership between the rights-holder, local government, national and local sports organisations, as well as Tourism and Events Queensland (TEQ), is the goal.
TEQ chief executive Leanne Coddington has previously said that endurance events, including marathons and triathlons, provide a natural fit for Queensland, with the state’s outdoor lifestyle, climate and natural environment enabling win-win scenarios with rights-holders across triathlons, marathons and other road races, cycling events, mountain biking and water-based sports such as surfing, sailing, swimming and life-saving.
An example of the success of this approach can be seen with the Cairns Ironman Asia Pacific Championship.
Now in its 11th year, the event was rated at No.1 for overall satisfaction in the 2018 Ironman Athletes Choice Awards.
Situated at the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef and within easy reach of the Daintree Rainforest and tropical islands, the event, which boasts a stunning backdrop, has become known as the Ironman in Paradise.
With arguably the most spectacular cycling course in the world, competitors race up the Captain Cook Highway hugging the coastline from Cairns to Port Douglas. From reef to World Heritage-listed rainforest, and a run along the stunning Cairns boardwalk, the race finishes in the heart of the city.
With the next edition taking place in June 2020, the Cairns Ironman Asia Pacific Championship will provide another platform for a sport-obsessed state to promote its appeal to a global audience.