Hospitality, Retail

Traffic chaos and lines of thousands: Why some Gold Coast small businesses are worried about the 2018 Commonwealth Games

Emma Koehn /

It’s been years in the planning, but for small businesses on the Gold Coast the true business impact of the Commonwealth Games remained a mystery until the curtain was lifted on last night’s opening ceremony.

More than 6000 athletes and staff have flocked to the games village this week to chase their sporting dreams, and the state government and organisers promised the business community there would be around 660,000 tourists visiting the Queensland city over the next fortnight, up from the usual half a million visitors.

However, things got off to an interesting start this week with the city’s mayor accusing some businesses of price gouging as tourists started to flock to the city, according to the Gold Coast Bulletin.

For most business owners, however, the impact of the games on their day-to-day business was a top worry, says owner of Gifts on the Gold Coast, Donna Osborne. And traffic was a number one concern.

“Probably, if you were to hear people discussing it [the games] inside businesses, they were probably talking about the traffic,” she tells SmartCompany.

Gifts on the Gold Coast delivers specialty products like fruit baskets and special event gifts across the city. Obsorne says she’s been warning customers that deliveries might not happen seamlessly, since it was impossible to tell in the lead-up exactly how her business would be affected by changed traffic conditions.

“It was actually so hard to know how it was going to impact us,” she says.

Having seen viewers start to flock to the city for the games, the real test for deliveries will be today, when the company will face plenty of literal roadblocks in getting orders to customers.

While businesses were promised huge visitor numbers, Osborne says many of her local customer base have actually been determined to leave town during the event.

“A lot of people thought about leaving town, and a lot of them just have,” she says.

Gifts on the Gold Coast has spent months thinking about how the changed conditions could impact the business, but Osborne says some early orders today from the athlete’s village have proved a pleasant surprise.

“We have an order in this morning from Ghana — it’s a lady’s birthday today, and we’re doing that delivery into the athlete’s village today,” she says.

“20,000 people past our door each day”

For other businesses, the launch of the games is all about facing the rush of customers head-on.

Alba Cafe is located just around the corner from the Commonwealth Games swimming pool, and owner Miranda McCallum tells SmartCompany that by 10:00am this morning, the business had already served 1000 customers.

“This really is what we hoped [would happen], certainly,” she says.

The mornings will be incredibly hectic for the business, which is an Australian-Scottish operation and has staff from both Commonwealth countries keen to cheer on their athletes.


The business even got a shout-out in the lead-up to the games from BBC Scotland, which the owners say is great for global publicity.

The games’ organising committee came by the business a few weeks ago to ask “are you prepared” for hoards of customers, but the Alba team had already put a plan in place to deal with the anticipated increase in demand.

Because the venue is so close to the water events, the company has been warned it’s likely it will see 20,000 people walking past the cafe each day.

McCallum tells SmartCompany the only real worry remains how the business will get excess stock delivered given the traffic situation is so challenging.

“That’s probably really our only challenge at the moment — our cafe is on the street [and deliveries arrive from that side], but the street is actually closed,” she says.

Despite that, the business is incredibly eager to leverage the national spirit of both Scotland and Australia as customers keep coming through the door.

“We’re half Australia and half Scotland — we’re split, right down the line,” she says.

READ MORE: These two brothers want to open 50 outlets for US burger chain Carl’s Jr. in Queensland

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Emma Koehn

Emma Koehn is a former senior SmartCompany journalist.

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