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New Zealand’s value proposition attracts more Asian incentives

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New Zealand’s value proposition attracts more Asian incentives
Despite the distance from much of Asia, New Zealand is an aspirational destination for Asian incentives, offering a memorable mix of cities, scenic locations and unique cultural activities in both the North and South Islands.

While established markets like China and Singapore are returning, there is new interest from India and Southeast Asia for high-end, smaller groups seeking bespoke experiences, notes Business Events Industry Aotearoa (BEIA).

“New Zealand is popular for a number of reasons, including our ability to manage incentive groups, and our reputation as a safe destination,” said Lisa Hopkins, chief executive of BEIA.

“While Auckland and Queenstown will always be popular with these groups, we are seeing interest becoming more widespread. We are keen to see all our regions under consideration because they all offer something different and special.”

General Travel New Zealand confirmed that besides China, there is promising demand from India, Indonesia and the Philippines. Its Asian itineraries are between five and seven days, and due to limited time, focus on the North or South Island, with group sizes varying from 40 to 700 participants.

Groups from the insurance, direct selling and manufacturing sectors are most commonly choosing New Zealand. Some trips may include technical visits.

John Sng, managing director, General Travel New Zealand, noted it’s usually the “Golden Route” in the North or South, but creating a “wow factor”.

North Island itineraries usually focus on Auckland, the Hobbiton movie set tour and cultural and geothermal activities and attractions in Rotorua.

New Zealand’s value proposition attracts more Asian incentives
Hobbiton | Credit: Hobbiton Movie Set Tours

With Christchurch as the gateway city for the South Island, itineraries include day trips to Kaikoura for whale-watching and wineries enroute, the Mount Cook region and Queenstown – from bungy-jumping to jetboat rides and also wineries and scenic attractions.

Sng mentioned subtle differences among Asian incentive groups.

“Indians often visit both islands and prefer more activities and attractions with all meals included, whereas other Asian markets like to have at least one day free to explore on their own with allowance for meals.”

SOTC Travel India said MICE itineraries are packed with activities as corporates want to keep their associates engaged and maximise on the destination, with half a day for shopping.

“We have managed multiple groups of 80 to over 400 delegates to New Zealand in the past year. Corporates planning incentive trips for top achievers to long-haul destinations prefer extended itineraries ranging from five to eight days,” said S D Nandakumar, president and country head of corporate tours for SOTC Travel.

Large incentive groups opt for the North Island given Auckland’s advanced infrastructure and inventory, while the South Island and Queenstown are apt for small and medium-sized groups, with two days in Christchurch.

Corporate clients of Thomas Cook India often opt for a trip to both islands. One group combined Queenstown, watching a rugby match at Eden Park, Auckland, and cricket across the Tasman in Sydney.

“We have successfully delivered large corporate groups of 200 pax in 2023 and have confirmed groups of 550 and 600 pax in 2024. MICE clients prefer Singapore Airlines and Malaysia Airlines. While Batik Air Malaysia and Qantas Airways also operate flights to New Zealand, they layover in Australia, which requires transit visas – a time-consuming process,” said Meera Charnalia, executive vice president and head of MICE for Thomas Cook India.

“Current visa procedures for New Zealand involve additional processing time,” noted SOTC’s Nandakumar. “If this could be expedited, more corporates would consider the destination as a potential option for incentive travel.”

Singapore’s Chan Brothers Travel said regular clients planning incentive trips to New Zealand this year to reward their employees are focusing solely on leisure activities.

Senior marketing communications manager Jeremiah Wong said: “Itineraries typically mirror those of leisure tours, offering experiences such as dining, shopping and especially sightseeing amid the expansive landscapes and alpine beauty of New Zealand.”

Typically one week in duration, the focus is on either the North or South Island. “This allows participants to immerse themselves more in the experience rather than rushing through or merely touching upon the various locations,” he said.

On Asian food concerns, BEIA’s Hopkins assured: “New Zealand is very multicultural and thanks to our incredible local produce, you can indulge in a magnificent Indian vegetarian feast through to the most tender halal lamb.”

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