May 21, 2021 | By Bronwen Largier

The joy was palpable when Queenstown Convention Bureau brought 33 of its business events suppliers to Ovolo Woolloomooloo last night for its annual Australian Roadshow.

“You can feel it in the air, can’t you?” said Tourism New Zealand’s General Manager in Australia, Andrew Waddel to the sizeable crowd.

“Anticipation, turning into what is reality – and that is the opportunity to, for the first time in some time – 395 days to be exact, not that anyone was counting – you can now fly quarantine free from Australia to New Zealand and back again.”

Kiran Nambiar, Destination Queenstown’s Director of Business Development, said it was “unreal” to be back in Sydney.

“A million things had to go right for us to make this event possible,” he said, before thanking both countries’ Prime Ministers for doing their part. “You did drag your feet a little, but we got there.”

Queenstown even brought along its mayor for last night’s event, Jim Boult, a man who understands the importance of a sense of occasion – he made news headlines by going bungee jumping in all his mayoral ornamentation to commemorate the return of domestic travel in New Zealand in 2020.

“I cannot tell how emotional we are, how excited we are to have you back again,” he said last night. “Good on ya mate. We’re looking forward to seeing you.”

“Our area is entirely reliant on tourism,” he said, highlighting that in 2019, Queenstown, with a population of 40,000, had a tourism industry worth $3 billion, of which two thirds was international.

“If you needed to understand how hard it’s been for operators in our part of the world, that’ll demonstrate it for you.”

When the first flight landed from Sydney on April 19 this year, 387 days after the previous flight, Boult went to the airport and gave every disembarking passenger an ANZAC biscuit.

“The Australian market is vital to us. We absolutely need you,” he said.

In 2019, Australians made up 39 percent of the total expenditure in Queenstown – around the same as the next nine international markets put together.

The event felt like a trip to Queenstown might – with the charm, friendliness and gentle familiarity of a smaller destination – as though we’re really all friends already.

But another experience at the roadshow also spotlighted the depth of talent, accessibility and beauty of the destination in a business events context.

Hamish Edh, Managing Director of TomTom, a Queenstown-based AV company, talked us through the installation case studied below, which they nipped 10 minutes out of town to make in the late afternoon on the day the trans-Tasman border reopened, creating a beautiful projection with a stunning backdrop at just the right time of day, to add a little of Australia to the Queenstown landscape in preparation for having us back.