As the first environmentally designed major public building in Australia, the Cairns Convention Centre (CCC) in tropical north Queensland is no stranger to headlines.

In 1996, its first year of operation, it won EIBTM’s inaugural Environmentally Conscious Congress Centre Award for high-tech features like a roof designed to capture the seasonal tropical downpours and solar hot water heaters. The CCC is also one of only two venues in the world to receive the International Association of Convention Centres award for World’s Best Congress Centre twice – in 2004 and 2014.

This month the CCC is making headlines again following an announcement by Queensland Treasurer Curtis Pitt of AU$176 million in new funding to upgrade and expand the CCC. Described by Pitt as “the single best project that we could see happen in Cairns,” the money will be used to refurbish the existing 31,000 sqm venue and build another 3,000 sqm of exhibition space and meeting rooms on the CCC's 2.2-hectare site. 

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“At the moment we have 2,400-seat and 3,500-seat plenary theatres, but what we are lacking is exhibition space,” says CCC general manager Ross Steele. “But it's the addition of new exhibition halls that are really going to give us the best potential to grow in the future. It will give us the opportunity to not only host bigger events but to hold bigger events at the same time.”

Market research indicates the CCC 2.0 will immediately meet pent-up demand in Australia's domestic exhibition market. “But it will also give us the capacity to attract exhibitions from the international market, which currently comprise about 50 percent of our clients,” Steele says.


The bulk of new international clients will indelibly come from Southeast Asia, according to Rosie Douglas, director of Business Events Cairns and Great Barrier Reef, the city's state-funded events tourism bureau.

“We are one of the closest Australian cities to Asia so we believe growth will come from the region,” Douglas says. “Right now Cairns Airport has two flights a week coming in from Hong Kong as well as direct flights from Singapore, Osaka and Tokyo. We hope that by attracting bigger events, we'll encourage airlines to add new direct flights to other cities in Asia.”

On completion in mid-2020 or early 2021, the expansion is projected to attract 20,000 new delegates to Cairns every year. “It will mean more business,” Douglas says, “for everyone in the community.”