The Science and Technology Minister’s comparison of G20 to Expo is weird (see the Brisbane Times report G20 will give Brisbane an Expo 88 boost – Minister). I won’t deny there might be some long-term benefits from connections made and deals brokered at G20 side events, or that participating in the G20 is in Australia’s national interest, but it’s pretty obvious to me that the short-term impact of the G20 on Brisbane will be largely negative, while the impact of Expo was hugely positive.
Based on what many of my friends are up to, and on anecdotal reports from holiday destinations on the Gold and Sunshine Coasts and at Byron Bay, there will be an exodus from Brisbane over the G20 long weekend. I expect the negative economic impact of this exodus on Brisbane will more than offset any economic boost from visiting G20 leaders, their entourages and hangers-on. Contrast the expected impact of G20 with Expo 88, which had millions of visitors, and saw huge flows of people into Brisbane from elsewhere in Queensland, Australia and across the world. G20 is an event for a tiny global elite, while Expo was an event for the masses.
Furthermore, Expo has had huge, long-lasting impacts through the transformation of what was formerly a largely industrial area into a vibrant recreational precinct, South Bank. I doubt the impact of G20 on Brisbane will be as long-lasting.