How Gold Coast businesses can leverage the Commonwealth Games and minimise its disruption


The 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games is fast approaching, and it is essential that businesses consider the opportunities the event presents, and the potential disruption it will cause.

It is not too late to make plans to leverage the event and make preparations to safeguard your business from any negative effects that will come from road closures and increased traffic on Gold Coast roads.

A report last year compiled by Dr Joan Carlini and Dr Andrew O’Neill from the Griffith Business School is essential reading for business owners and managers who need a place to start when considering their options come Games time.

Gold Coast Business and the Commonwealth Games: Impact, legacy and opportunity looked at what could be learned from host cities from past sporting mega-events such as the Olympics and Commonwealth Games and explored how to maximise Gold Coast business opportunities.

The concise and insightful report includes a checklist for Gold Coast businesses and lists several issues and considerations for cultivating the Games legacy. Zakazukha talked to Dr Carlini to get further insight into the preparedness of the city’s business community ahead of the largest event in the city’s history.

Hi Joan, you released your report in July 2017, have you continued to work with businesses in the interim period?

We have held several industry forums and panel discussions where academic and industry experts have come to assist businesses by answering their questions about how the Commonwealth Games could affect their businesses and how they might be able to benefit.

When considering the effects of the Games, the problem is that each business is very different, and what the report highlighted was that, depending on where businesses are located, their industry and who their customers are, they will be affected differently.

There’s no big blanket solution; no magic answer for all businesses. What the report did highlight was the factors that each business should consider when it thinks about ways to leverage the extra benefits of the Commonwealth Games.

One business I spoke to was setting up external food and beverage outlets for through traffic – that’s one example. Another was looking to pull back a little bit at Games time because it won’t have access to where its customers are. They are the types of things business owners should think about when making decisions for this time.

You identified disruption as a key factor in your report, and that has gained a significant amount of media attention as the Games have approached, specifically regarding traffic.

I was a bit surprised it had taken so long to talk about disruption. It is a necessary disruption, and the government is talking about it as a temporary inconvenience. For a lot of people, the Games will be a temporary inconvenience, but for small businesses that rely on regular cash flow, the disruption will be a lot for them. Some businesses will get along fine for those two weeks and the couple of weeks before and after, whereas others will find it incredibly difficult.

The report identified that social media could be a key way for many businesses to leverage the exposure brought by the Commonwealth Games.

Depending on the business and its individual situation, we definitely thought that social media was important. For example, there is a good chance that tourism businesses will benefit a lot from the Games directly through increased tourism, but they can also tie in with a social media awareness campaign to highlight their business and the region to potential customers. If the Commonwealth Games is not part of your core business, you can still be creative and link the business with the Games and social media is certainly a good way of doing that.

You also identified that this will be one of the first major international events held in Australia since Airbnb has gained a strong foothold in the accommodation market.

That was based on anecdotal evidence. We didn’t speak to Airbnb, but we did speak to real estate agents who were talking about it, so we started investigating whether there was an increase in Airbnb rental rates in the areas surrounding Games venues. We discovered that Airbnb was going to be an interesting factor in the mix, especially after we saw that Gold Coast Tourism was linking to it as an alternative and viable source of accommodation.

How will it impact traditional hoteliers?

I’ve seen statistics that say that traditional types of accommodation are well booked. Airbnb will take overflow: whereas at past major events some tourists would have to stay in neighbouring towns, in this case it looks like that overflow will be absorbed by Airbnb. Where it will present difficulties is that Airbnb accommodation is generally in suburban communities, so there may be increased road and foot traffic in those local areas. That could be an opportunity for local businesses to prosper in the communities where that is taking place. We will have to see whether Airbnb people cook dinner at home, or if they patronise local restaurants.

Is it too late for business owners to make plans on how to leverage the benefits of the Games, and to minimise disruption?

It’s not too late. There are a lot of businesses still forming plans and communications activities and I don’t think it is too late. There are still 47 days until the Commonwealth Games, so  there is still time to make plans. Businesses should consider sitting down with the Get Set team, having a look at our report, studying the information regarding road and venue closures and gaining an understanding of where their business is located in comparison to the venues. Think creative, think out of the box – what can they do to create increased demand and increase awareness of their business among new and current customers?

We’ve talked a lot about preparing for the Games, what about preparing for the aftermath? Should we expect a hangover?

I was lucky enough to hear a panel discussion on this very topic. A food and beverage industry veteran, who has experienced Olympic Games and Commonwealth Games, spoke about hangover effects and about the possibility that normal tourists may avoid the city in the weeks following the event. However, Surfers Paradise Alliance has events planned for that particular period and the hoteliers on the panel said there are already strong bookings for that period.

And there will be a whole lot of proud volunteers in the community who have picked up new skills and experiences and who will have a spring in their step.

Civic pride is something that is well researched after major events. I have friends volunteering at the Games and I am seeing them post all sorts of things about how excited they are to be taking part in the Games. That is an important outcome from the event; we will have a large group of people within the Gold Coast, Queensland and Australia who have formed new networks and have new skills and that will be positive for the Gold Coast, and the towns where people are returning home to as well.