In a couple of weeks Brisbane’s BNE airport will play host and parking lot to the government-owned and chartered aircraft belonging to the leaders of the world’s biggest economies as they gather in the Queensland capital for the G20 summit. Plane-spotters will arrange their collapsible chairs as close as possible to the perimeter to catch a glimpse of Barack Obama touching down on Air Force One, Angela Merkel arriving on a German air force Airbus and Shinzo Abe emerging from a Japanese air force 747-400.
There’s a possibility that the Mexicans might pull off the ultimate show-stealer as they’ve just taken delivery of a new 787 and are the only country in the G20 with such a new-fangled government aircraft. Across the airfield, less fortunate bureaucrats and most domestic and international media will arrive on commercial flights.
As I’m currently in the G20 host city for my book tour, leaders can expect cloudless skies, low humidity (though it’s not always guaranteed at this time of year), excellent food and a very real security risk from nesting magpies. Last spring I was the victim of a serious aerial attack from a particularly angry magpie residing in the New Farm district of the city and I can well imagine that either various security corps will have relocated the birds to nice neighbourhoods along the Gold Coast, or drone maker General Atomics will have co-developed special vehicles with the US Secret Service to ensure the president doesn’t get a surprise whack to the back of the head.
One thing leaders and their entourages shouldn’t expect, however, is much in the way of extended pool and cabana time while they’re here. While they shouldn’t be around the pool in the first place (they’ll be chatting away at the convention centre), anyone wanting a break from the talks wouldn’t have too many options. The city lacks a good hotel to cater to all those people who like a little bit of city-life to go along with their sunlounger – and vice versa.
As G20s are usually good jamborees for the media but not particularly friendly to many local businesses (considerable trade is lost, both inside and outside the various rings of steel), I was thinking there might be time for Brisbane’s town elders and business minds to convene a parallel entrepreneurs’ conference to establish a couple of legacy projects once the circus leaves town. I’ve come up with a couple of ideas for Brisbane and potentially some forward planning for Istanbul, when it plays host in 2015.
Keep the party going: Brisbane has been hosting a three-day festival, dubbed Resort, that loosely focuses on the creative, fashion, media and design sectors. Centred around the James Street precinct, the Resort concept has all the momentum to become an annual event but you could broaden its reach to hold forums about the hospitality sector and generally amplify the city’s subtropical vibe.
Book me a few days here: smart money would invest in a proper urban resort that would cater to wealthy Thais, weekending, sun-starved couples from Melbourne and anyone down Australia way who doesn’t want beach but does want a bit of an urban holiday. Brisbane could position itself as one of the region’s premium leisure/business cities and even play a regional role that might resemble Miami’s status in the US as a doorway to Latin America. With room to carve out a hospitality offer that would save Asian business travellers the extra 90 minutes it takes to get down to Sydney, Brisbane could also play a role as a connecting hub for traffic to South America.
What would it look like? A good urban resort in Brisbane would boast the best coffee in the world (the city is already a global leader in this department), fine architecture that might include lots of connected lanes at street level dotted with independent retail; lush, fragrant gardens and terraces and 70-100 rooms, all with balconies, sliding screens and shade. Reflecting Brisbane’s new world city spirit, there would be at least seven outstanding restaurants serving excellent Lebanese, Malaysian, Japanese, Italian and Greek cuisine. The roof would be the best pool setting, with signature outdoor furniture made locally and the most dashing crew of cabana girls and boys to keep glasses filled and towels neatly folded.
Tyler Brûlé is editor-in-chief of Monocle magazine
This article has been amended since publication
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