This week CEO of Conventions and Incentives New Zealand (CINZ) Lisa Hopkins spoke exclusively with micenet about the organisation’s current and future state of play.

The organisation has remained active during the COVID-19 pandemic, with an industry event planned for December and a lot of lobbying going on behind the scenes.

You can read Lisa’s full statement below.

New Zealand’s business events industry started 2020 with incredible optimism and the promise of an unprecedented year, with new facilities, hotels, infrastructure and a full diary of conferences, meetings, and incentives from all corners of the globe. We were riding the highest of highs and basking in the results of years of incredible hard work by a small, yet passionate and innovative sector which packs a powerful punch on the world stage.

That word. Unprecedented. Little did we know then how often we would be using that word in conversation, speeches, and social media, or how often we would hear it being said by politicians, news presenters, business leaders and industry experts. A word that will forever be associated with COVID-19, and one we would all dearly love to see retired.

When our prime minister, Jacinda Ardern announced border restrictions and banning mass gatherings of 100 or more on March 19, this brave industry felt a chill and prepared for the worst.

Business started to go into hibernation as we waited for the inevitable, Alert Level Four, which took effect on March 25. Our country stopped and the heart of foreign exchange earnings and, tourism, including business events, went into arrest.

For some it was a time to plan, change, reinvent. For others, the past four weeks has been just one bad news story after another as companies, big and small, reduced their staff or moved into liquidation. The talent we have lost because of this is devastating. We cry out for experienced, smart, creative staff and yet so many companies have had to make the heart wrenching decision to let some of our best and brightest go.

On Monday, April 20, the prime minister announced that we would be moving from Level Four to Level Three after ANZAC weekend. Our business events heart monitor flickered, just a little. A small feeling of optimism started to flow through our veins. It is perhaps fitting, that this coincides with one of the most important dates for New Zealand and Australia, when we remember sacrifice, service, and bravery, is when we hope to start the beginning of our recovery.

New Zealand, like so many, has paid the ultimate price. One life lost is one life too many and this indiscriminate invader did not leave New Zealand untouched in that respect. One job lost is one too many as companies looked towards a dire economic outlook.

Yet still, that spirit which keeps propelling us forward, often in lock step with our Australian friends, refuses to be defeated.

New Zealand is now beating the odds. The last four weeks of lockdown seems to be working. The transmission rate is down to .5 per 100,000. In other words, to use a rugby analogy, we are kicking this virus into touch, just outside the 22. The so-called tyranny of distance for our island nation is working for us. We cannot afford to go crazy, we must take a measured approach, and we must take a bit of time, but that small flicker has ignited us into action.

CINZ has remained active.

We put a stake in the ground and announced we would still host an event in Auckland at the end of the year to enable the sector to reconnect with customers and each other.                 BE Reconnected is designed to put emphasis on engaging relationships and driving business. We have been overwhelmed by the positive response we have received from both exhibitors and buyers. Finally. Something to put in the calendar. Something tangible to look forward to.

We have not been quiet. We have lobbied government to recognise the importance of this industry to the economic recovery of the country and to support those who are doing it tough. While the government released a financial support package, based on a 30 per cent reduction of revenue from the previous year, we asked the question. What about those companies who are staring at a 100 per cent loss of revenue?

We are, by nature, a team of collaborators and are working very closely with our friends at Tourism New Zealand on the reimagining of our business events strategies for domestic and international, all of which will be designed to stimulate opportunities.

I have 100 per cent belief and confidence in our industry, its resilience, the extraordinary knowledge and talent of the people who drive it, and the desire of both organisations and associations within New Zealand and around the world to find a way to talk, engage and share ideas again.

In the meantime, Aotearoa’s skies have become even cleaner, our birdsong is louder, our waters are bluer, our country is even more beautiful than before. Papanuatuku, our earth mother, is resting, she is breathing, and she is re-energising our lands, water, and people. But even she knows it will soon be time to move, to reconnect and to meet again.

We can’t wait to welcome you all back to our home.