Tour of Expo16 in Turkey offers great hope for Australia in 2020



Gold Coast entrepreneur and founder of the international garden festival Australis 2020, Steven Haggart, was recently fortunate enough to be given a VIP tour of the international Expo16 in Antalya, Turkey. Mr Haggart represented Australia as one of 26 member nations at the International Horticultural Congress which was held in conjunction with the expo.

Despite the challenges of managing millions of Syrian refugees and Turkey’s internal political unrest, the expo was still well attended.

Mr Haggart noted that although there was a significant reduction in visitor numbers to Expo16, due to the political situation and safety concerns, the event still managed to attract over 4 million visitors. Last year’s expo, Milan15, attracted dramatically more.

“This gives us a pretty solid indication of the value of these events to their host countries and the people that visit / invest in them. Milan15, arguably the most professionally run Expo in recent times, sold 10.5 million tickets before they opened the door! ultimately hosting 21.5 million visitors during the 6 month event,” Mr Haggart said.

“What that tells me is we can expect some significant tourism benefits for the host city that hosts Australis 2020, especially given Australia’s popularity as a travel destination. In fact, Lucid Economics have conservatively estimated 4-5 million visitors during the Australis2020 six month event, with the more optimistic numbers sitting around 6-7 million.

Interesting to reflect that Brisbane’s Expo’88, based on a population at the time of around 1 million, originally targeted 8 million visitors, ultimately hosted 18 million. That was nearly 3 decades ago, when Brisbane was considered to be more of a large country town, and by most peoples estimations, that signature event catapulted the State’s Capital onto the world stage to become the truly international city it is today. 

“The expected tourism income figures and the political benefits are just immense.”

Expo16 celebrated 19 countries national days, entertained over 80 foreign delegations, generating 52,000 local and international media articles and reports this year alone. They also hosted garden displays from 56 countries.

“It was an impressive event by any measure, even more so given their challenges,” said Mr Haggart.

In comparison, Milan15 had 140 participants, was attended by 62 heads of state / heads of government and hosted over 370 delegations, with an estimated 300 million people actively engaging with the 6 month event, across 20 social media platforms.

“While it’s hard to guarantee the level of involvement in Australis 2020, it does give us an idea of what is possible if governments back an event like this. Key to the plan has been to develop a unique funding strategy which sees the private sector partner with government, to deliver on the promise of this tremendous opportunity, like never before,” said Mr Haggart.

Approximately €600 million was invested in creating and hosting Expo16 with another €700 million being spent on associated projects included light rail extensions, upgrades to the local airport, the old town and highways.

Mr Haggart has developed a model for Australis 2020, which ‘turns the tables’ on these historically ‘government only’ funded projects, to engage the private sector to do most of the financial ‘heavy lifting’ to help create the project, part of which includes a self-sustaining approach to the garden’s long term viability, ensuring it will be enjoyed long after the six-month expo is over.

“The environmental benefits of Expo16 were huge, they planted 25,000 trees, 220,000 shrubs and over 3 million flowering plants, representing over 500 different species,” said Mr Haggart.

The Antalya site was spread over 112 Ha and includes 88 outdoor gardens, 31 internal gardens, 17 Ha’s of lakes and water features, a 5,000 seat external amphitheater and a new 5,000 seat convention centre – now the biggest in Turkey.