Pent-up demand at New Zealand's only trade show for 2020

More than 420 people gathered in Auckland as TNZ reports "increasingly positive attitude towards business events".

BE Reconnected 2020
Live crowds at BE Reconnected on 1 December, the one-day industry event hoped to kickstart business recovery.

New Zealand's only trade show for the business events industry in 2020 attracted more than 420 attendees on 1 December, underscoring pent-up demand for physical meetings.

Organised by Business Events Industry Aotearoa (BEIA), formerly known as Conventions and Incentives New Zealand (CINZ), BE Reconnected saw more than 290 buyers connecting in-person with 120 suppliers, which BEIA chief executive, Lisa Hopkins said will "go some way to support domestic recovery".

"Ours is a multi-billion-dollar industry with far reaching impact, and business events will play a critical role supporting economic recovery. This event gave us, as an industry, an opportunity to reinforce to clients our commitment to New Zealand’s Events Sector Voluntary Code and demonstrate all the practical ways it could be seamlessly delivered."

Under this Code, contact tracing and best practices for hygiene standards were strictly adhered to for the event, held at Aotea Centre Auckland.

Every attendee scanned a contact-tracing app on arrival, before walking past a thermo-imaging camera to enter the show floor. Delegates were given individually-packed lunches and disposable cups for drinks, while staff managed self-check-in kiosks to reduce over-crowding.

Free masks were also given to those who wished to wear one at the event, although those who arrived by air, or public transport were required to wear a mask while travelling. To reassure attendees, a 'Safety Measures' icon on the BE Reconnected Event App displayed all the safety practices implemented during the event, which included a St John first responder on-site for the entire day.

All smiles for the BEIA team as New Zealand's travel trade industry gather for its only trade show in 2020.
All smiles for the BEIA team as New Zealand's travel trade industry gather for its only trade show in 2020.

Ultimately, the event revealed the pent-up desire and value New Zealanders put on face-to-face meetings.

“We were reminded that in our professional industry, nothing is left to chance, and best-practice safety and hygiene can still make for an enjoyable, relaxing and inspirational event," Hopkins said. "After a year when we learned all about creating virtual and hybrid events, we all agreed nothing beats meeting face-to-face in a space where everyone feels safe and engaged.”

At the event, a survey by Tourism New Zealand (TNZ) of 125 local organisations showed that 97% are planning to hold a business event in 2021, with 92% stating in-person conferences and offsite meetings are important for their organisation — up from 79% in May 2020.

"The appetite for meeting is coupled with an increasingly positive attitude towards business events. More than half (56%) said they appreciate the importance of face-to-face meetings more now than pre-Covid-19, up from 39% in May," said Lisa Gardiner, business events global manager, TNZ.

From the floor, out-of-town delegates, such as Jessica Ireland from The Incentive Lab in Melbourne, remain hopeful that a trans-Tasman travel bubble will materialise soon.

“Once borders open there is a really good opportunity for New Zealand to capture corporate incentive travel from Australia which, in the past, would have gone to Asian destinations,” Ireland said.

Carol Rothschild from KE Creative Events, added: “Be Reconnected has been an invaluable opportunity to meet locals from around the regions, get new ideas and through BEIA receive introductions to people who can help us create future events here."

Looking to the future of New Zealand's business events industry, BEIA's Hopkins shared that “over the next three years, New Zealand will open three international convention centres, with a combined floor space of 10 rugby fields, creating over 1,000 new jobs directly while also supporting other industries such as accommodation, hospitality, food producers and suppliers, and airlines".

Hopkins added that the BEIA team continues to work closely with the government, contributing also to industry task forces to ensure that the road to recovery is as rapid and smooth as possible.