Destination update: Brisbane

In case you missed it, Brisbane is fast becoming a go-to event destination with a host of new venues and hotels on offer.

This article originally appeared in the November issue of Spice Magazine. Subscribe here.


In recent years, Brisbane has proclaimed its title as a ‘new world city’, one that was gearing up to welcome
significant investment and a host of new product. Now, the Queensland capital is delivering on its promise, unveiling luxury hotels, updated event spaces and state-of-the-art technology.

2018 was a stellar year for Brisbane, playing host to some major conferences and securing a number of high-profile events for the future. In fact, 2017-18 was Brisbane Convention Bureau’s most successful year to date in terms of the economic return that will be delivered through the events it has secured.

Leading air route development conference Routes Asia and the International Conference on Robotics and Automation were both held in Brisbane this year, meanwhile the 145th International Air Transport Association Slot Conference was secured for November 2019

This year, Brisbane has also welcomed a plethora of new hotels and event spaces, positioning the city as a must-visit destination for business events.

HOTEL BOOM

The ever-trendy James Street precinct in Fortitude Valley recently welcomed the launch of The Calile, the latest property in TFE Hotels’ growing portfolio. The Calile features 175 rooms including nine suites and two premier suites, plus event spaces for more than 500 delegates. The Calile is TFE’s second Brisbane opening for 2018, following the 220-room Adina Apartment Hotel Brisbane in July.

W Brisbane is also now open for business, offering 312 design-led rooms, including 29 suites, two Wow Suites and the Extreme Wow Suite on level 33 of the hotel. Meetings and events are taken care of with approximately 1100 square metres of event space on offer, including the Great Room with capacity for up to 750 guests.

Across the river, Emporium Hotel South Bank has also opened its doors, featuring 143 suites, a pillarless ballroom for up to 350 people, plus three purpose-built boardrooms. The hotel’s rooftop bar is also drawing crowds, with its expansive views across Brisbane River.

Earlier this year, Brisbane’s original Emporium Hotel, located in Fortitude Valley, was sold to Ovolo Hotels Group, which has recently revealed plans to transform the property into Ovolo The Valley by the end of November 2018. The hotel will include 103 rooms, including two suites inspired by the late David Bowie, a rooftop pool, meeting rooms and a signature restaurant.

Emporium Hotel South Bank

According to a recent report released by Tourism Accommodation Australia, Brisbane has a total 2718 hotel rooms in its pipeline up to the year 2025, including 976 rooms currently under construction.

Brisbane Convention Bureau general manager Juliet Alabaster says a greater supply of hotel product lifts Brisbane’s appeal as a business events destination.

“Hotels are one of the first impressions delegates get when visiting a city for the first time, and with a raft of sophisticated new and refurbished hotels across the city, Brisbane has more than its fair share of wow-factor,” she says.

“Many of Brisbane’s new hotels also offer functional and stylish meeting and event spaces, with state-of-the-art technology.”

In the midst of the openings, Brisbane Marriott Hotel is undergoing a $20 million refurbishment project ahead of its 21st birthday in early 2019. Renovation of the hotel’s public spaces, restaurant and lobby is now complete, as well as the addition of two new meeting rooms, which are being well received by clients. The 267 guest rooms and suites are currently being updated with new furnishings and colour palettes, as well as restored bathrooms.

TECHNOLOGY

Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre (BCEC) continues to prove itself as a leading business events venue, taking a new approach to event technology. The centre’s AV team has been focusing on innovative formats to improve customer experience and, as a result, has introduced a range of custom-designed technology packages. BCEC’s in-house technology includes event apps, delegate polling, video streaming and digital engagement.

The centre also offers projection mapping, which is a popular option for event organisers. The low-cost visual experience is designed and delivered by the in-house AV team and can be customised with branding and content to offer an immersive environment for delegates.

UNDER CONSTRUCTION

Excitement is building for the launch of Howard Smith Wharves, which will see the former wharf transformed into an exciting riverside precinct. Opening in November 2018, the precinct includes indoor and outdoor event spaces, a 164-room Art Series hotel and a line-up of bars and restaurants.

Scott Bayne, general manager of events at Howard Smith Wharves, says the project is part of a larger vision to position Brisbane as a “must-visit tourism and events destination”.

“Howard Smith Wharves will be a new destination for events and exhibitions with a boutique hotel on-site, riverside brewery Felons Brewing Co., dining options and 2.7 hectares of open parklands, which will be ideal for outdoor events,” he says.

“In 2019, Howard Smith Wharves will launch a series of food and culture festivals, cementing Brisbane as the must-visit Australian city.”

Event spaces at Howard Smith Wharves include The Rivershed, a large, flexible space with capacity for 480 seated guests and 630 standing; The Houses, which comprises four distinct venues ideal for smaller events; and the 1100-square-metre Howard’s Hall with capacity for 1200 cocktail style.

Bayne says Howard Smith Wharves has already secured a number of corporate events including gala dinners, exhibitions and conferences.

“Surrounded by beautiful gardens and greenspace along with a vast array of dining options, there is plenty for event guests to experience before and after their event,” he says.

“Our blend of revitalised historic buildings and purpose built spaces adds to the precinct’s character and is certainly a draw card in the heart of the city.”

Meanwhile, Brisbane Airport’s second runway is on track to open in 2020. The first part of the taxiways that will connect the new runway system with the existing system and terminals was completed in September to much excitement.

The new parallel runway will double Brisbane Airport’s capacity, making travelling to the Sunshine State easier than ever. The runway is part of more than $12 billion worth of major projects set to benefit Brisbane in the coming years.

LOOKING AHEAD

Alabaster says the future for Brisbane is looking bright. “We’ll continue to work with partners to secure leading conferences, particularly those that align with Brisbane’s expertise and growth sectors,” she says.
In the new year, the bureau will focus on attracting more incentive business to the city.

“Since hosting Tourism Australia’s international incentive showcase Dreamtime in late 2017, we’ve seen greater interest in Brisbane as an incentive destination and we feel the time is right to secure a greater share of this market.”

With so much new product on offer and lots more to come, there’s never been a better time to do business in Brisbane.

WHERE TO EAT, SLEEP & MEET

The Greek Club
Following a $3 million refurbishment, The Greek Club recently unveiled 11 new meeting and event spaces, including the 1000-square-metre Grand Ballroom and the Grand Balcony with city skyline views. The new signature restaurant, Nostimo Restaurant and Bar, is led by acclaimed Greek chef David Tsirekas and seats 180 people across its main dining room and terrace.

Fish Lane
Tucked away in South Bank, Fish Lane offers an array of restaurants and bars. Chu the Phat offers Asian street food in a modern venue with a number of event spaces on offer including a laneway and outdoor bar. Julius Pizzeria is a local favourite, with wood-fired pizza, pasta and Italian cocktails, while Billykart West End is a bistro-style restaurant ideal for private functions and large events.

Capri by Fraser Brisbane
Located in the heart of CBD, Capri by Fraser Brisbane offers 239 hotel rooms and apartments. Its three conference spaces can cater to up to 120 delegates, with its largest space, The Pod, featuring natural light and a decorative gold ceiling. The property also includes state-of-the-art wellness facilties, such as an indoor swimming pool, his and hers steam room and a 24/7 gym.

Spicers Balfour Hotel
From the outside, Spicers Balfour Hotel looks like a classic Queenslander home, but inside awaits boutique luxury rooms, a modern restaurant and a rooftop bar. The property features 17 rooms and suites across two buildings and two meeting rooms that can accommodate up to 48 guests. The entire property can be booked exclusively, perfect for corporate events and incentive retreats.

The Lushington
Located in Woolloongabba, The Lushington has recently opened in a heritage-listed hall that dates back to 1925. The space has been restored into a large warehouse-style venue, complete with exposed brick, four-metre-high ceilings and polished concrete floor. The venue can host events of up to 400 guests, has no noise level limits and is also BYO.

Novotel Brisbane South Bank
Novotel Brisbane South Bank opened earlier this year with 238 guest rooms and two meeting rooms, which can cater to 145 guests when combined. The hotel is also conveniently connected to the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre via a short walkway. The on-site restaurant, Spice Central Kitchen & Bar, is the perfect spot to unwind and enjoy local produce.

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