June 16, 2022 | By Bronwen Largier

Just five weeks after getting stuck into COVID-era business as usual, New Zealand’s flagship business events trade show MEETINGS is giving Te Pae Christchurch its biggest exhibition yet.

“There is a pent-up demand now to meet again, particularly in the domestic market, the national market, and we are seeing that,” said Te Pae Christchurch’s general manager Ross Steele during a media walk around the new centre yesterday.

“We’re seeing stronger numbers for every event that we have hosted to date than what we had projected.”

Demonstrating just how fast business is returning after the New Zealand government lifted the 200-person limit on events in the back half of April, MEETINGS, with its sell-out exhibition of 211 stands, 115 Australian buyers and more than 300 domestic buyers, is not the largest event to be held in the first of New Zealand’s next-generation convention centres – that honour belongs to Harcourts New Zealand which held its domestic conference at the venue in late May, with 1,100 conference delegates and a dinner for 970.

“We are seeing very, very strong face-to-face meeting numbers,” said Steele.

He said that although the centre was facing its share of the global industry’s staffing challenges, “just about every department has full stock on board” for MEETINGS and the whole team would be involved in the event in some way, from the catering team to the cleaners and the venue’s business development team who were on the show floor to drum up business to meet the venue’s NZ$600 million economic contribution target for its first decade.

With the pandemic causing disruptions in Te Pae’s construction phase and the emergence of the Omicron strain of COVID-19 putting a stop to large-scale events just weeks after Te Pae’s official opening, Te Pae Christchurch has had a less-than-smooth start to operations, but Steele confirmed the ramping up of business had been faster than expected.

Hotel development around the centre is promising, with Crowne Plaza Christchurch, which overlooks the venue from behind, reopening a fully refurbished property following a stint as an MIQ hotel just the week before MEETINGS and three other vacant sites immediately surrounding Te Pae earmarked for hotels, which will no doubt service the centre.