Yesterday I was invited along to the BNE Airport Business Advisory Group Airport Tour. They hold these tours once a year to communicate to the business community their strategy and roadmap for the future. I’m pleased to report: it’s a very good roadmap and one of the things that makes me excited to live in South East Queensland over the next decade.
The tour began, and ended, at the Accor’s brand new IBIS hotel and conference centre, opposite the domestic terminal. It’s an impressive hotel, particularly for a 3.5-star offering, but what really amazes me is that it’s the 3rd hotel Accor have launched in the 2700 hectare airport facility. They also launched a 5-star Pullman directly next door at the same time, which also looked like a superb complex – a definite cut above the usual airport accommodation found in most cities.
Both these hotels were added to Accor’s existing Skygate Novotel which has been operating at Brisbane Airport’s (BNE) Skygate precinct since 2009. Most interestingly, Cory Heathwood, Brisbane Airport Corporate Government and Public Affairs Manager, pointed out the BNE Skygate Novotel was Accor’s best performing hotel in their portfolio last year not just for Australia, but the entire Asia Pacific region. The drivers behind this achievement are many, but the most obvious would be that BNE airport is the most domestically connected airport in the country. It is also one of the closest major airports to the city centre, just 9 minutes by car and also the 3rd busiest airport in the country, with 215,000 flights per year, and as Heathwood explained, with the strongest growth seen in international passenger traffic which has been growing steadily, year-on-year at around 5 per cent.
“We’re not just about planes” explained Heathwood as he led us around the facility. “More than 23,000 people work at the airport each day across a wide number of businesses including government, training, munitions, catering, food production and distribution. To the left you’ll see a datacentre facility we’ve completed…” the industrial developments on BNE land are a vital growth strategy for the corporation, particularly when The Brisbane Industrial Strategy report found that by 2041 demand for industrial land will outstrip supply in Brisbane. With over 1000 hectares of undeveloped land, it’s something BAC is definitely not short of. The business precinct was impressive, but it is the future strategy the airport has formulated that really gets my jets firing.
We were shown the ‘BNE Auto Mall’ site which is being cleared ready for earthworks as we drove past. This is a 51 hectare precinct featuring a purpose-built test-track designed around a series of luxury car dealerships. There is also a proposal for a 4WD park for the Range Rover fans amongst us – a very innovative concept and an example of the sort of boundaries BAC is pushing in its growth strategy for the region.
Another exciting development is the expansion of Skygate, which, again already has work crews on site setting up for construction. A ‘bulky goods’ mall is being built with speciality stores such as Anaconda coming on board to compliment the existing DFO and 24hr Woolworths already at the site.
In addition to this is Skygate North, which is the next stage of this precinct. Here the plan is to build more tourist-based attractions such as a full-scale waterpark and a golf course the concepts of which look amazing. Best yet, a new Airtrain station is proposed to be built at this location to connect all the facilities in the Skygate precinct with the airport terminals themselves, making the entire development connected and integrated. In fact, once stage 2 of the Gold Coast’s Light Rail comes online early next year (it’s in testing now), it will be possible for tourists to step off their flight and catch trains straight to the heart of Surfers Paradise – a huge win for tourism right across SEQ.
While on the subject of tourism, I was really excited to see the new Cruise Ship Terminal, situated next door to the Airport. The Port Of Brisbane is working on Brisbane’s second, and much larger, $150M cruise ship terminal and they expect this to come online in 2022 to coincide with the opening of BNE’s new runway – a tourist bonanza for all of Queensland.
Of course this is all fantastic, but BAC saved the Pièce De Résistance till last. As we were led to a spectacular, and brand new roof-top conference facility in the Ibis Hotel, we were treated to panoramic views of the New Parallel Runway (NPR) currently being developed. The land is being surcharged with 11 million cubic meters of sand at the moment to squeeze all the water out of the soil – after which 100,000 tons of asphalt will be laid over a 3.2 metre deep substrate to give us the new runway. This will give BNE the most efficient runway system in the country. Heathwood proudly explained that the chosen configuration will allow for simultaneous take-offs and landings which will more than double the amount of flights the airport can accommodate and open SEQ up to a huge number of new, direct, international routes. Two cruise terminals and the most domestically connected and most efficient airport in the country can only mean really good things for Queensland tourism and the Management Rights industry in our region.
What I find most exciting is that the BAC’s forward-thinking strategy isn’t unique. It is part of an even greater push currently underway in SEQ transforming our region into a world-class destination over the next few years. The BAC’s projects will synergize with other major projects in the region such as: The Queens Wharf development which Urbis have predicted will be a ‘game-changer’ for our state; The Hamilton Northshore development which is the largest waterfront urban renewal in Australia’s History and built around our existing cruise terminal, The AEG Ogden’s entertainment precinct which is coming to Roma St is delivering the largest live music venue in the state; and of course the huge infrastructure push taking place on the Gold Coast for the Commonwealth Games next year; all massive projects for QLD and all linked with excellent new transport services (including the new Cross River Rail System, The Subway System, and Stage II of Gold Coast’s Light Rail System), connecting these projects to tourists and the airport that will bring them. Possibly the most exciting of all is the fact that most of these projects are ‘market led’. BAC, AEG Ogden, ECG (Queens Wharf), Port Of Brisbane are all private entities investing their own money into these massive projects. To me that’s the biggest vote of confidence imaginable for the future of Queensland tourism and the Management Rights industry. The next 5 years will be very exciting for Queensland.