An adventure on the Gold Coast
The Australian Adventure Expo is a new exhibition for outdoor, 4x4, fishing and hunting suppliers and retailers.
The trade-only event is pitched at attendees with a sense of adventure – which made the Gold Coast, a destination known around the world for its outdoor attractions, stunning beaches and enviable weather, the perfect fit for the inaugural Expo.
Located in the heart of the bustling Broadbeach precinct, the Gold Coast Convention & Exhibition Centre (GCCEC) offered an unbeatable location and world-class facilities that appealed to Events Director Louise Brooks, the owner of Brooks Events.
“We needed a world-class venue for the show,” Louise says. “With its outdoor spaces for us to utilise, and with so many restaurants, cafés and local attractions close by, we knew GCCEC would be a perfect fit for the attendees and exhibitors.”
Held across two halls, as well as outdoor spaces on the venue’s northern terrace, the Australian Adventure Expo attracted 46 exhibitors and 350 retailers daily from around Australia to GCCEC over two fun-filled days.
In the lead-up to an event at GCCEC, event planners will usually visit the venue for a comprehensive site inspection. This helps them to visualise what their event will look like, and begin planning how they can utilise the space available to them.
But for this event, that wasn’t possible, as the border closures that were in place throughout 2021 forced Sydney-based Louise Brooks to cancel two visits to the Gold Coast that she had scheduled.
Enter GCCEC+, a toolkit for virtual site inspections that allows event planners and exhibitors to immerse themselves in the venue from anywhere in the world. Developed in partnership with Tourism Australia, the toolkit uses extended reality technology and immersive 360-degree video content to showcase the Centre as a world-class business event venue.
The toolkit includes GCCECXR, the world’s largest 1:1 scale photorealistic extended reality experience, and GCCEC360, an interactive and immersive 360-degree virtual tour. Throughout the experience, clickable hotspots appear that provide all of the information the GCCEC team would share with visitors on a physical site tour.
The toolkit also includes GCCECimap, an interactive floor plan that provides event planners and exhibitors a 3D model of the venue that showcases its spaces, room dimensions, event types and flexibility.
“I’ve used the virtual walkthrough a number of times,” Louise says. “Sometimes in the office, and when we were all in isolation and working from home, I actually took my device out into my backyard and walked around, exploring the venue.
“The virtual toolkit gave me a great sense of the space and of what was possible, on top of the floor plans that had already been provided and the discussions I’d had over the phone with the GCCEC team.”
Louise also passed the virtual toolkit onto potential exhibitors.
“Quite a few of our larger exhibitors hadn’t been to the Centre before, but the virtual toolkit gave them a great sense of the space,” she says. “It helped them to visualise the venue and familiarise themselves with the space they’d be working with.”
Once she arrived at the venue, Louise found that the real thing reflected the virtual venue she’d explored in her backyard – with one notable exception.
“The venue is a carbon copy of what I explored online,” she says. “It was exactly what I imagined it would be. The only thing that was different is that once you actually get here, you get to experience just how beautiful the Gold Coast is.”
That personal touch
For many of the exhibitors and retailers who came from all over Australia to the Expo, this was their first chance to gather in person since the onset of the pandemic – and Louise was determined to make it a reunion to remember.
“A lot of our exhibitors and retailers hadn’t been able to come to an event like this for two years, but as soon as we mentioned the Gold Coast, they said, ‘Right, we’re there,’” Louise says. “Some of them even brought their families with them so they could extend their stay for the weekend.
“From a business perspective, you run into so many people on the show floor that you wouldn’t necessarily think to schedule an appointment with otherwise, because you don’t know what they’re up to and what their plans are. But then you start having a conversation with them and you find yourself saying, ‘Oh, you’re going in that direction? I can assist you with that.’”
For exhibitor Luke Eather, CEO of The Oztent Group, the Australian Adventure Expo provided an opportunity that no virtual conference could match.
“This is the first event that we’ve been to like this in three years, and it’s so exciting that it’s on the Gold Coast,” he says.
“As an exhibitor, an event like this is all about connecting with our retailers from around Australia and showing them the brand new products we’ve been working on. It’s one thing to see a product online, but being able to see it, touch it, feel it, experience it… that makes all the difference.”
In order to make the most of the attendees’ time together, Louise worked with the venue to build a concession stand inside the hall, on the Expo floor.
“We wanted to bring everybody together and encourage them to have a coffee or a beer, or sit down and have lunch together, without having to leave the show,” she says.
To that end, GCCEC’s executive chef created a menu that would cater to attendees’ cravings all day long, with healthy and hearty options for breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea, so no attendee needed to stray from the show floor.
At the end of each day, guests could head across the street and continue catching up at one of the many acclaimed restaurants, cafés and bars in the Broadbeach precinct.
“I think it’s just the nature of human beings to want that face-to-face interaction,” Louise says. “We need it. I’m so happy to catch up with people, and so many people have stopped me to say, ‘Thank you so much for bringing everyone together.’”
The adventure continues
Despite floods in Queensland and New South Wales threatening to affect freight deliveries to the venue in the lead-up to the event, the first Australian Adventure Expo went off without a hitch.
“Our logistics team worked closely with Louise and her exhibitors to ensure the freight got here on time for the show to begin,” says GCCEC Event Manager Simone Rodgers.
“It comes down to communication – all of our departments communicating with each other and the client to ensure we deliver a seamless event.”
After the success of this debut, Louise Brooks says she’s looking forward to the Australian Adventure Expo becoming an annual event.
“We didn’t know if we’d just have this one show, or if we’d have one every couple of years,” she says. “But we’re excited to say that the feedback from the industry has been very positive, and the event will be continuing every year from now on.
“This year’s event has run very smoothly, and the GCCEC team have been great to work with. They’re friendly, knowledgeable and professional – they’ve really become an extension of my team.”
Exhibitor Luke Eather says he can’t wait to return to GCCEC for another event like this.
“I’ve definitely enjoyed our Gold Coast experience,” he says. “The people here are fantastic, the venue is amazing, and you can’t beat the location. It’s just a great place to be.”