Prime Minister Tony Abbott with Lord Mayor Graham Quirk and Premier Campbell Newman in Brisbane, accepting the city's status as official G20 venue. Photo: Kristian Silva
About 7000 visitors will attend G20 Brisbane; 4000 delegates and their accompanying entourage, and 3000 of the world's media.
US president Barrack Obama and his team are rumoured to have already booked out one of the city's prime hotels.
Representatives for other leaders will have done similar, which is great short-term news for Brisbane hoteliers who for two days, and a week either side, will be guaranteed rack rate, along with accompanying upsell benefits such as dining, laundry and room service.
The G20 is an opportunity for Brisbane to showcase itself to the world. Organisers will be hoping for no repeat of the Toronto riots.
There are 9786 hotel rooms in the greater Brisbane region. While some visitors will find higher end accommodation at the Gold and Sunshine coasts, basic mathematics suggests even the city's dives are likely to hang “no vacancy” signs outside their driveways for G20.
It's a feather in the cap of all those behind the host bid and few will disagree there are huge benefits to the city.
Some might even suggest 1982 Commonwealth Games-scale benefits. The bravest of pundits will suggest it's the greatest thing for Queensland since Expo '88.
Regional tourism operators won't openly criticise the event; or won't, at least, be seen on the record expressing cynicism towards an event which has the potential to sell our state to the world.
“We won't see much here,” said one operator at Mt Tamborine.
“Maybe we'll get some of those people who live in the exclusion zone using some of the government's money to visit us.”
Another near Brisbane said there would be terrific economic outcomes for the city's restaurants and retailers. Ongoing benefits, however, would sit with tourism authorities and the way they leverage the spotlight which will be on Brisbane over that time.
Brisbane Marketing, on behalf of Lord Mayor Graham Quirk, has been initially charged with that duty. All media enquiries are being pushed in Cr Quirk's direction. For all immediate intents and purposes, it seems this is his event.
Tourism and Events Queensland, too, are deflecting queries to the Brisbane Marketing office. Regardless, it will be their job to sell the regions – from the nearby Sunshine and Gold coasts, to far north Queensland and the outback, which is seeing huge tourism wins in the face of ravaging drought.
As the vision of Sir Edward Williams sent Matilda strolling down Coronation Drive in 1982, signalling a coming of age for Brisbane in the eyes of the Commonwealth, there is hope that G20 coverage will serve a similar outcome for the city in the eyes of the world.
G20 won't leave physical legacies such as South Bank, born from Expo '88, and regarded as a time when sleepy little Brisbane finally woke up. Neither will it be all chicken dances and happy concerts.
This is a political event, and Cr Quirk's publicity machine recognises that. They've already started selling the economic benefits of the city to G20 nations, in particular those in Asia, where Queensland stands to gain the most business traction.
The three-year campaign has been rolled out in Hong Kong, London, Spain, France and mainland China.
People there are seeing Brisbane alongside faces such as Obama, Shanghai news anchor and Asia Pacific Screen Awards host Chen Lei and Chinese American artist Cai Guo-Qiang, whose exhibition is now at the Brisbane Gallery of Modern Art.
But there are also local heroes. Professor Ian Frazer, UQ deputy vice chancellor Professor Max Lu and Fruit Ninja app designer Phil Larsen are some of those pushing a clear message that Brisbane is a safe and feasible place to do business.
Colmar Brunton research shows that of key decision-makers who saw the campaign in Hong Kong, twice the number would be likely to consider Brisbane as an investment opportunity.
So far, it's cost us $1.2 million to paste up 3000 billboards. More than 160 million people have seen the campaign.
“By the time the G20 is over, I want the world to know that Brisbane is a rising star in the Asia Pacific and the friendliest city on earth,” Cr Quirk said.
While the focus is on business tourism, the spend is small change when put alongside the potential tens of millions of dollars which will roll into the city over the duration of G20. There will be plenty of talk about business return. There will be plenty of talk about attracting rising visitation.
Buzz words aside, it is acknowledged by all involved in the spin doctoring of Brisbane that this is no Expo '88. It's a quickfire opportunity to sell Brisbane, and indeed the rest of Queensland to the world.
“The real economic benefit from G20 goes beyond the days of the summit and is impacted by investment into the city, foreign student enrolments which also have an impact on future labour force and an increase in international conventions,” Cr Quirk said.
“In terms of tourism, we hope that Brisbane's reputation as a friendly city will shine through during the Brisbane Summit and next year the Brisbane City Council and Brisbane Marketing will be leading a citywide campaign to ensure locals give delegates and visiting media their warmest welcome.”
And therein lies the gamble. There will be protests. There will be a volatile environment at times as there was in Canada, as there has been at all G20 Summit environments.
It's a gamble that rests not with the Lord Mayor; rather, with the people of the city. Of the 3000 journalists who will be filing economic reports to their news organisations, they will have a brief to file “colour pieces” – stories about the city, its surrounds, its people, and – we hope – its beauty.
There will be familiarisation tours parading past Surfers Paradise, into the Gold Coast hinterland, through the theme parks, and perhaps to the Sunshine Coast beaches. Those who can stay long enough outside their political brief will get to snorkel the Great Barrier Reef, pat a kangaroo and hug a koala.
In a way, it's a modern-day opportunity to repeat the success of Paul Hogan's “put another shrimp on the barbie” campaign.
Can we cope with the massive influx of visitors to the south-east corner of the state over this hyped up couple of days. That, Cr Quirk says, is a matter for the G20 Taskforce, which seems confident Brisbane's room capacity will be adequate if not ample.
“We want to encourage hotel development and improve the city's business, convention and tourism potential,” Cr Quirk said.
“That's why we have a dedicated hotel investment strategy aimed at addressing the shortage of hotel rooms which costs the Brisbane economy $136 million and 87,000 visitors a year.”
A moratorium on infrastructure charges for new four- and five-star hotels seems to be having some impact. Chifley at Lennon's redevelopment will deliver 150 new rooms, Four Points by Sheraton Hotel is expected to finish development in Q1 2014, Shayher Group will build a 190-room hotel, and there could be two new casinos.
G20 pitches Brisbane as a place where internationally-significant things happen, and while all eggs are not in the China basket, it's a clear opportunity to propel forward the name of a city which many will not have heard of before.