September 2022, Virtual
September 29 2022, Virtual
Now in its 27th year, the Business Travel Awards
Australia”s Sunshine State capital is booming: as the fastest growing city in Australia, it is well on its way to catching up with its snootier, colder cousins Melbourne and Sydney, whose residents sarcastically dub it ”BrisVegas” for its lack of nightlife and sneer at its rumoured lack of culture and sophistication.
And in some respects they”d be right. If it”s theatres, museums, fashion or cutting edge design you”re looking for, don”t come here ” it”s just not what this city”s about and nor does it pretend to be.
This is the place for living life the Aussie way, which means when you”re not in the office you are outside, either in one of its myriad bars and restaurants ” where to sit inside is as strange to a Queenslander as having beetroot, pineapple and egg in a burger is to a Brit ” or enjoying one of a plentitude of highly active activities, from kayaking on the river to climbing the Kangaroo Point cliffs.
It”s certainly a refreshing way to work, as despite the multitude of businesses opening offices in the city ” in
fact buildings just can”t be built fast enough and all space is snapped up before foundations have broken ground ” Brisbanites prefer to work hard but not long and the evening rush is a good two hours earlier than in the UK.
Surrounded by water on both sides, the city centre comprises a small area just 1.5km wide and approximately 2km long. And while architecture throughout Australia is remarkably ”new” to European standards, that of Brisbane is even newer. For them, ”old” is the breeze block architecture of the 50s and 60s, which perhaps explains their dislike for anything that isn”t modern. Other countries have old buildings worth treasuring, but in Australia they must be knocked down and replaced with newer models.
With the exception of a few. While being given a tour of the city”s top business hotel, the Stamford, enclosed by the Botanical Gardens on one side, the financial district on another and overlooking the river, I was shocked to hear my guide refer to one of the buildings as ”heritage listed” on account of its great age. It”s 80 years old.
The hotel itself is the city”s most luxurious, popular perhaps for its surprisingly traditional, European interior reminiscent of London”s Savoy or the Ritz, albeit the exterior suggests nothing of the kind, with a far more modern fa”ade. All 252 rooms are lavishly decked with heavy furnishings and staff are very formal English in dress, very Australian in manner ” a good combination by anyone”s standards.
A little further down the coast takes you from ”Vegas” to ”Miami”, namely the Gold Coast. Queensland”s most popular tourist destination is also changing beyond recognition, evolving from a provincial, simple stretch of beautiful 57km-long (35mile) coastline to a dynamic, thriving area for business.
A Gold Coast Bazaar was introduced for the first time this year and is set to become an annual festival running throughout the month of June. It aims to attract business and tourism to the area, highlighting it as ”the place to be seen” in Queensland and even coining its own somewhat Ab Fab, fashionista adjective, ”veryGC”.
Money is abundant in the Gold Coast capital, Surfer”s Paradise and, as in Miami, the cash is very much flashed on expensive cars, self-built Grand Designs-style houses and physical enhancements. Barbie-like ”metre maids” cruise the parking strip along Surfer”s beaches to make sure you don”t get towed and Ken-like hulks demonstrate their prowess in the surf.
It is fitting perhaps that a mere stone”s throw away from the carbon cut-out land of Surfer”s Paradise is Australia”s top hotel ” Palazzo Versace. The first of 15 planned Versace-branded hotels, the next of which is currently under construction in Dubai, this boutique property is decked from roof to car park in the designer brand, though it operates under a franchise agreement with Australian development company, Sunland Group.
Versace”s loud colours and dripping gold often displayed in its fashion designs causes many to assume the hotel will be garish and ”bling”, but in reality it is surprisingly not so. Its circular Roman-style driveway is surrounded by large pillars and contains the second largest pebble mosaic in the world, outside Rome”s Parliament House.
The entrance is a breathtaking contrast of pale marble, glass and colour. $11.5m (”5m) worth of marble was imported from Carrara and the Benedictine Monks in Italy, with blue marble in the hotel”s many mosaics that is one of the most expensive in the world. The lobby (and lobby really is not a fitting description) contains a chandelier formerly hung in the State Library of Milan and the floor to ceiling glass overlooks the world”s longest heated outdoor pool (65m/213ft), followed by fountains and the river beyond.
OK, so it”s hardly demure, either, but it is after all designed by a brand which markets itself on grandeur and making a statement. And that is what the hotel does, and does stylishly. There are 205 rooms and 72 condominiums that all take luxury to new heights and are as relaxing to stay in as they are elegant. No wonder ”I”m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here” contestants are so grateful to leave the rainforest ” they come straight from there to the Versace.
It is, however, out in the surrounding rainforest and further down the Gold Coast that you get a sense of what the area is really about ” what Queensland is really about. There is an abundance of natural beauty everywhere here, with mountains, rainforest, beaches and ocean all around that is still so untouched and relatively unpopulated.
It is this that the Aussies are most proud of and what they do a far better job than the rest of the world at protecting, albeit they are hardly environmentally friendly with their much-loved petrol-guzzling tanks ” I can”t see electric vehicles going down well.
The booming growth and industry provide another contrast to the mix, one that threatens to destroy the simplicity of the countryside, although with the country”s tradition of taking influences from both the UK and America, it will hopefully continue to find a balance between the subtle and the brash. The Queensland Government has renamed itself the ”Smart State” ” let”s hope it lives up to its new title.
Gina CherryEditorial Assistant