New Zealand’s travel trade gets green light to restart business events

Events of up to 100 pax under new guidelines get the go-ahead as domestic travel resumes

Auckland: New Zealand is currently in the early stages of discussions with Australia to create a Trans-Tasman travel bubble to enable participants to fly to and from the respective countries.

AUCKLAND - The New Zealand government has given the green light for ticketed large events like business events and conferences to restart with a 100-person limit and strict precautions, following an appeal from Conventions & Incentives New Zealand (CINZ) last week.

These new guidelines include ensuring one-metre distancing requirements and contact tracing.  Events must be seated and have good hygiene procedures, including ensuring F&B offerings meet hospitality provisions.

The move comes as the government allowed domestic travel to resume and retail and local sports to reopen with physical distancing and strict hygiene measures. Public venues will only be allowed to host a maximum of 100 persons.

CINZ, an association representing New Zealand's conference and business events industry, made an appeal to the government on 8 May to exempt business events from mass gathering restrictions and pave a clear timeline and guidelines for domestic business events to restart.

CINZ's chief executive, Ms Lisa Hopkins, said that the industry "welcomes the clarity on numbers from the government" and the "acknowledgement that business events should be viewed differently to social gatherings".

Conventions & Incentives New Zealand's chief executive, Lisa Hopkins: "We believe we can safely manage indoor business events of up to 500."

"This helps the New Zealand business events sector restart for domestic attendees, and is the first step in the right direction," she said.

The cap on business and social events are in accordance to the first stage of the country's Alert Level Two and will be reviewed on 25 May.

"We understand the cap on numbers is set by the Ministry of Health based on the ability of public health to be managed in the case of an outbreak, including contact tracing, isolation and critical care facilities," said Ms Hopkins.

CINZ called for the government to recognise that the industry "can operate under a controlled set of 'bio-safe' principles" and "should not be subject to mass gathering restrictions".

"We believe we can safely manage indoor business events of up to 500," she said. This figure takes into consideration physical distancing for events being held at some of New Zealand's largest venues," Ms Hopkins said.

Ms Hopkins underscored the industry's business of "running highly organised events" that enable it to trace all visitors, delegates, speakers and exhibitors and "monitor, track and put in place a range of measures that ensure these events comply with government measures on hygiene and physical distancing".

The association has been collaborating with EVANZ (Event Venues Association of New Zealand) to produce a new Safe Meetings Guidelines, which are currently with the Ministry of Health for final guidance before being distributed.

The guidelines also include aspects such as the use of registration systems to support any government-based track and trace capability and new guidelines around meeting set-ups to allow for social distancing.

Restarting domestic events will be the first step as the industry begins to regain ground from the loss of international events.

"A shut border is also a challenge. While we engage in and welcome a domestic meeting and event strategy, this will go only some way to filling the void left by the international events," said Ms Hopkins.

New Zealand is currently in the infant stages of discussions with Australia to create a Trans-Tasman travel bubble to enable participants to fly to and from the respective countries.

A bright spot in New Zealand's future is that the industry has been mainly dealing with the postponement of meetings and events to 2021 rather than cancellations.

"2021 will be the year of mega events, such as America's Cup and APEC, as well as a large number of association conferences, corporate meetings and incentives. We have seen some of these business events shift from 2020 to 2021," said Ms Hopkins.

"In addition, we have called on the government to demonstrate leadership with their own events by ensuring they don't cancel them, that they engage with a PCO or events agency to manage it for them and that they continue to provide content support with speakers, sponsorship and hosting. There has never been a more important time for the industry and government to work together and show our collective leadership, alignment and partnership," she said.