July 18, 2022 | By Bronwen Largier
Following Thursday’s announcement that New Zealand’s flagship business events trade show MEETINGS will take place in Wellington’s new convention and exhibition centre, Tākina, in June 2023, we’re giving MEETINGS 2022, held last month at the first of New Zealand’s new generation of convention centres, Te Pae Christchurch, one last hurrah, with a roundup of some aspirational titbits we picked up at the show.
Te Pae Christchurch
The venue for MEETINGS 2022, Te Pae Christchurch, got going with a bang about five weeks before the show – thanks to the timings of New Zealand’s Omicron wave and the centre’s official opening in December 2021, it wasn’t until May that the centre started operating as it meant to – with every event held at the venue exceeding its original attendee projections. This included MEETINGS.
“It’s been a bit of a whirlwind,” said Te Pae’s GM Ross Steele. “I think we’ve gone from naught to 100 in about no time flat.”
And even as an incredibly young and fresh entrant into the meetings market, the venue is already picking up awards – it won the award for civic building of the year at the New Zealand commercial building awards and it won best commercial roof at the New Zealand roofing awards. It’s also a finalist for a Property Council of New Zealand award which will be announced next month, and it was a finalist in the AIPC Innovation Award, from the International Association of Convention Centres (although it lost this to another from the ASM Global family across the ditch in Australia, ICC Sydney).
Steele said the centre, which has a plenary auditorium for 1,400 pax but could conceivably accommodate up to 3,500 in theatre if all of its exhibition halls and adjoining meeting rooms were opened up, is projected to have an economic impact of $600 million in its first ten years.
Christchurch as a destination also has big plans as it seeks to reclaim its sizeable share of the New Zealand’s business events market that it lost over a decade ago when the 2011 earthquake devastated the city.
Before the earthquake that precipitated the demolition and subsequent rebuilding of most of the city, which is paying major dividends now, New Zealand hosted 24 per cent of all business events which came to New Zealand, including 42 per cent of Australian business. That share fell to two per cent after the earthquake.
“We’ve since regained nine per cent of all business events in New Zealand and we intend to recapture and exceed our previous market share,” said CEO of ChristchurchNZ Amy Adams.
Adams said aside from Te Pae, Christchurch has other venues and the central city was stacked with hospitality offerings and visitor attractions to support Christchurch’s business events ambitions. She said her team was “laser focused” on winning back its place in New Zealand’s business events landscape.
“Mark my words – we’re back, we’re growing and we’re strong.”
Christchurch Airport is also coming to the business events party in several ways.
After talking to PCOs about destination choice factors for business events and discovering part of the decision hinged on making delegates feel welcome, the airport is looking to set up a permanent welcome lounge for business events travellers, with interchangeable branding to suit each event. The airport has also worked with the external company which operates the digital signage throughout the airport to offer packages for event managers – and/or event sponsors – to have high impact signage throughout the airport to welcome or farewell delegates on the days they arrive and depart.
The airport also used MEETINGS as an opportunity to spruik its sustainability credentials which are world leading as far as airports go. Between 2006 and last year, the airport has reduced its carbon emissions by 90 per cent and is actively involved in mentoring other airports around the world to lower their emissions.
The airport is also building New Zealand’s largest solar array right next door to the airport, which will generate enough electricity to power 30,000 homes. The solar array is the first stage of a renewable energy development called Kōwhai Park and is expected to be online by 2025.
“We imagine using the power from that for hydrogen production, which is a key component of alternative airline fuels,” the airport’s GM of trade development, Scott Callaway, told micenet at MEETINGS.
The solar array may be used to power some electrification of airport activities and there is scope to use it for the electrification of planes, which are set to rise in New Zealand.
“It’s a very exciting future,” said Callaway.
“Part of that, I think for us, is the fact that we’ve recognised that’s an exciting future so then you are looking for the opportunity.”
Tourism New Zealand
Looking more widely at New Zealand as a destination, Tourism New Zealand is working hard to rebuild tourism and visitor demand as the easing of restrictions has permitted the visitor economy to restart.
“We’re certainly not back to where we were and it’s going to take a little while post-pandemic to get us out of this crisis,” said Tourism New Zealand’s chief executive René de Monchy.
“Really high quality visitors is key for us – those are visitors that will spend and that will contribute to society, contribute to culture and contribute to nature. And business events is at the pointy end and the forefront of that in terms of the visitor profile.”
During the last financial year, through its Conference Assistance Program, Tourism New Zealand’s business events division won 32 business events bids worth just over NZ$40 million to New Zealand. For this financial year, they’re targeting 70 bids with an economic impact of $105 million and they’re intending to exceed pre-COVID bidding activity in 2024, targeting 100 bids, up from 90 in 2019.
In this financial year, Tourism New Zealand will also be actively pursuing the incentive market for the first time, targeting 60 incentive bids and they’ll be tailoring marketing and support to attract this sector of the business events pool.
Business Events Industry Aotearoa
The industry association responsible for MEETINGS, Business Events Industry Aotearoa (BEIA), is looking to help address the skills shortage the industry is facing.
BEIA’s chief executive Lisa Hopkins is encouraging the industry to hire staff straight out of tertiary education institutions, with BEIA having already done so.
“With clear direction, inclusion and respect, their lack of firsthand experience is superseded by their loyalty, ideas and commitment. The rest simply develops with time.”
She also advocated for a reshaping of the narrative around the industry’s offer to prospective staff. It’s not just about visas, she said, but about “presenting a lifestyle better than the rest”. And she rejected the idea of the business events industry as a service industry.
“The term service doesn’t inspire, it doesn’t support aspiration and it definitely doesn’t allow for creativity and innovation,” said Hopkins.
“People who work in business events are champions of the experiential economy, where alongside our natural environment, communities and infrastructure, people create experiences which touch the heart and bury themselves into the mind, encouraging visitors to return time and time again.
“This feels like something the next gen of business events practitioners can own for themselves and truly have some fun with.”
Hopkins also flagged the importance of sustainability in the industry, pointing out that the business events industry had been an early adopter of sustainable initiatives, including giving back to communities, ditching paper for apps, addressing food waste and reducing travel through considering proximity in the conference environment. She said that while New Zealand continued to face the tyranny of distance, the business events industry could help mitigate this by delivering sustainable events on the ground.
And she had some elegant words to say about the importance of the business events industry as a whole.
“The answers to why business events are so important, comes from our profound ability to impact communities and countries positively and deeply.
“The fundamental human need to connect has never been stronger, nor more important.
“We are the means to influencing social outcomes and economic deliverables. We are a stimulus industry. We add to the character of CBDs and regions. We use our sway to guide investment and set the framework for decisions which guide people and place.
“Given our ability to influence, we have plenty to look forward to,” said Hopkins.
Air New Zealand
As MEETINGS was taking place, Air New Zealand’s international capacity was at 40 per cent, but this month international capacity is ramping up to 65 per cent; meanwhile the trans-Tasman capacity is rising from 50 per cent in June to 70 per cent this month, with flights to Adelaide, Cairns, Hobart and the Sunshine Coast restarting.
Looking forward, the airline is starting non-stop flights from Auckland to New York in mid-September – which will be good for Tourism New Zealand’s incentive aspirations, as well as their conference bidding work.
At MEETINGS, Air New Zealand’s chief customer and sales officer Leanne Geraghty was also upfront about what the airline needed to do on the sustainability front. She said reaching their net zero target by 2050 “is going to be quite a significant challenge”.
“We appreciate that and we know that it’s not something that we’re going to be able to achieve overnight. It will take a combination of sustainable aviation fuel, of new aircraft technology, of continued fleet renewal and of course ensuring that our inflight and ground operations are maintained as efficiently as possible.”
She said partnerships would also be important, with several already underway in the areas of sustainable aviation fuel and hydrogen power.
She said there was an urgency within the airline to work on sustainability.
“We actually know that this is something we need to do now, it’s not something that can wait. We acknowledge that we cannot continue as an airline to operate how we have been in the past.”