Q&A: Events Queensland

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MEI talks about culture, sport and coping with natural disasters with John O'Sullivan, chief executive of Events Queensland.

What is/are your role and responsibilities? " I am the chief executive of Events Queensland. Events Queensland is the State of Queenslands events agency tasked with attracting and growing major, regional and business events that deliver economic and social benefit to communities all over Qld. We were established in 1989 by the Queensland government as a government–owned company reporting to the Premier. It has an independent Board of Directors (chaired by former QANTAS chief executive Geoff Dixon) made up by members who have experience in tourism, sport, arts & culture and regional Queensland. I have been in the role since February 2010, after a six year stint as chief commercial officer of Football Federation Australia. " Does Queensland have a strategy for attracting major sports events? " Any event that we support must meet certain economic, marketing and social outcomes. In short, it must bring domestic and international tourists to Queensland , promote the destination and generate community pride. Our Sports Strategy is built around the following pillars: 1. Supporting government built infrastructure (e. g. Suncorp Stadium)2. Attracting events which will support the States bid for the 2018 Commonwealth Games (e. g. IRB World 7s) 3. Continuing our strong record in hosting participatory based sporting events (e. g. World Masters Games) 4. Supporting events that support key tourism and trade markets of the State. " What are the main events that Queensland hosts every year or has coming up this year and next? " Please visit www. eventsqueensland. com. au for our definitive Major Events calendar. The calendar is built around a strong core of recurring annual events such as the: 1. Gold Coast Airport Marathon 2. IRB World Rugby 7s 3. Brisbane International Tennis Open 4. V8s races in Gold Coast, Townsville and Ipswich 5. Magic Millions Carnival and Yearling Sales 6. Cairns Multi–sport adventure festival 7. Noosa and Mooloolaba Triathlons We also support more than 100 regional events throughout regional Queensland each year. " Are there any major sports events that you are currently bidding for? " We are always looking for opportunities to expand and grow the events calendar in a way that will deliver significant benefits for Qld. Most recently Queensland won the IRB Sevens bid for the Gold Coast – a major coup, an A$24m economic boost over four years and television coverage in 160 countries – ahead of competition from Sydney, Perth and Adelaide. This was a great reinforcement of the Citys claim to be a major sport tourism destination. The major focus at present is the States bid to host the 2018 Commonwealth Games. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for the Gold Coast and will deliver significant benefits such as an A$1. 3bn economic boost and the creation of 35, 000 jobs. Events Queensland was responsible for the feasilbility study into the bid and we also play a key support role for the Commonwealth Games 2018 bid team. " How important are cultural events to Queensland? " Very. In fact our investment in cultural events has grown strongly in recent years and there is now more of a focus than ever. Recent successes of Australian exclusives like Valentino and Surrealism which is coming up show the great potential in this area. Brisbanes cultural precinct is a first class venue and location for events like these, Brisbanes Gallery of Modern Art is Australias most visited Art Gallery with more than 1. 8m visitors in 2010. What we know about Cultural Events in Queensland is approximately 28% of the attendees will come from overseas (predominantly NZ) and interstate (predominantly NSW and Victoria). And about 85% of attendees only come to Brisbane because of the event. This means that they are great drivers of tourism and hence will play a key part in our events calendar moving forward. This year, we launched the World Theatre Festival and a long term partnership with the Queensland Art Gallery. We are also investing in partnerships with the Queensland Performing Arts Complex and, very importantly, in indigenous arts events such as the Drumley Walk and Cairns Indigenous Arts Fair. " How are events generally funded? " We invest in events and have a budget outlined through regular state government budgetary processes. Namely, we provide direct monetary support to events and in some instances in kind support. Each funding decision is based on an analysis of economic impact, marketing impact and financial ROI. We also analyse the risk associated with each investment. Increasingly, we look to collaborative partnerships with other arms of government such as local government and also other government departments. " How does your region plan for legacy? " The Commonwealth Games is a great example of an event which provides a lasting economic, social and infrastructure legacy which can be built on for years to come. Queensland has a strong track record in planning for legacy from major events. For example, the South Bank Cultural Precinct and Parklands were borne out of the World Expo 88 Event hosted in Brisbane. Part of our assessment of major events looks at what is the legacy of hosting the event and, in some instances, the programmes that we fund reflect this. For example, our funding of major art exhibitions in Brisbane has resulted in the creation of childrens programmes and Generation Y programmes that have now created an entire new market for art events in the Capital. " What else does Queensland offer a visitor other than sport? " Climate – nothing beats a visit to Qld in the winter to escape the southern chill. And the people – supportive communities all over Queensland which get behind events and welcome visitors with open arms. There is also a fantastic network of volunteers. Sport and Queenslands fantastic lifestyle go hand in hand – whether your participating or spectating its a big part of the Queensland way of life. " How has the region recovered following the floods and how much of an impact has this had on your events industry? " Each day, Queensland is bouncing back from the events of January and February when we were hit by not just one but two major natural disasters in the floods and Cyclone Yasi. These were significant events for the A$9bn tourism industry, an industry that employs some 200, 000 people either directly or indirectly each year. The impact on our business was mainly felt in the regional and business events sectors. In Brisbane, at the time of the floods we saw approximately A$6m worth of Business Events placed at risk. We responded by injecting A$1m into the seven convention bureaux to use targeted marketing campaigns to assist in their short–term recovery. We also injected close to another A$100k in to targeted regional events affected by the floods. But the recent natural disasters and the continuing tough times for the Queensland leisure tourism industry actually reinforce the important role of events going forward. Events help build resilience in the tourism industry – its difficult to deter someone who has already bought a ticket to an event. Forty–eight hours after the flood peak in Brisbane we saw a 40% increase in attendance at the Magic Millions Racing Carnival and it also follows that the most successful tourism economy in Australia (Victoria) has been built around a major year long events calendar. We see an increased role for events in the rebuilding and recovery stage – in delivering an economic boost but also giving communities opportunity to come together with a sense of hope and optimism about the future. "

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