Why New Zealand remains a leading conference destination

Its various cities continue to announce new developments, attractions and innovations to keep the country ahead of the game

In 2018, New Zealand ranked 46th worldwide in popularity as a conference destination, according to the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA), up five spots from 2017. Within the Asia Pacific region, it ranked in the 12th spot.

A key reason may be Tourism New Zealand's (TNZ) business events team, launched in 2013. Event planners can benefit from a strong online resource platform, www.businessevents.newzealand.com, which offers meetings and incentives ideas, business events support, various touring itineraries, information segregated by cities, and a free library of images and videos.

Add to the mix, TNZ's alluring conference assistance programme, which provides bidding organisations with funding, expertise and support, and that might help explain why 2018 saw the number of international conferences increase 33% over the previous five years, with last year's winning bids bringing an additional NZD$49.5 million (US$32.7 million) to New Zealand's economy.

"New Zealand is punching above its weight as a conference destination, winning more conference business than ever before," said Anna Fennessy, Tourism New Zealand business events global manager.

"Alongside sophisticated conference venues and stunning scenery… we're outperforming much larger, more easily accessible destinations through our hospitality [and manaakitanga]," she added, the lattermost a Maori word referring to New Zealand's indigenous style of welcome.

Anna Fennessy, Tourism New Zealand business events global manager

Rising above setbacks
New Zealand has faced some trying times in recent months. But it's proven itself resilient, both as a community and a destination, and also seen an outpouring of goodwill from the international community. Data from consumer research reveals that not only did the recent terrorist attack in March 2019 not cause "significant change in the number of consumers who want to visit New Zealand or are interested in the country - if anything the interest in New Zealand increased," said Fennessy.

Figures support her statement: 3.8 million international visitors arrived in year ending March 2019 - marking a 1.3% jump. Of these, 77,000 arrived for conferences and conventions, and another 306,000 for business trips.

And with new conference centres opening in Auckland, Christchurch and capital Wellington over the next three years, airport upgrades and unique venues sprouting in tandem with incentives offerings, New Zealand is winning the world's continued confidence - and more conference deals than ever before.

Leading with expertise and the new  
New Zealanders are responsible for some important firsts in the world, from creating the disposable syringe and splitting the atom, to creating the bungy jump. But "Kiwi ingenuity" has since gone beyond, with the country becoming a leader in areas such as agribusiness, earth and health sciences, high-value food and wine, information and communications technology and sustainable tourism.

Delegates who pick New Zealand know holding their event here would not only enhance education sharing, but also open networking doors with thought leaders in these key industries. Venues abound, including sparkling new facilities with completion dates from as early as 2020. "These will increase our events capability and capacity for larger groups," affirmed TNZ's Fennessy.

By 2020, New Zealand International Convention Centre (NZICC) will open its doors in Auckland, as well as Te Pae Convention Centre in Christchurch.

Currently, Auckland in North Island has venues with theatre capacity for up to 5,000 attendees, and by next year the New Zealand International Convention Centre (NZICC) will open its doors. In the same year, South Island will also see the launch of Te Pae Convention Centre, with purpose-built facilities including a 1,400-seat auditorium and over 3,000sqm of exhibition space. This is on top of existing venues already capable of holding up to 9,000 in Christchurch.

Wellington is also right behind, opening the Wellington Convention and Exhibition Centre by 2022.

Masterplans for the future
With the emerging economies of Southeast Asia, India, China and South America driving growth and changing global air travel dynamics, New Zealand has duly invested in aeronautical infrastructure - building towards the future, and a slice of the lucrative pie.

Its largest city, Auckland, receives 75% of all international arrivals into the country. As Australasia's fourth-largest airport - ranked sixth best in the world in 2019 by SKYTRAX World Airport Awards - Auckland Airport is served by 29 international airlines, with new routes continually announced, including those into the US and European markets. In 2018, international arrivals hit 11.2 million, up 4.1% in a year-on-year comparison. By 2040, the airport would also have completed its 30-year vision: to accommodate 40 million passengers and 260,000 flights.  

Capital Wellington's airport is also in on the facelifts, its NZ$15 million upgrade - focusing on its main terminal building - its biggest in nearly 20 years.

An artist's rendering of Christchurch Airport's future main arterial and view to terminal.

Moving to the south, Christchurch Airport also has similar expansion plans, a result of reviews over long-term plans for land-use and infrastructure every 10 years. With 11 airlines and over 10,000 international and 60,000 flights arriving at the global gateway into South Island yearly, the "Vision 2040" masterplan will feature the most exciting innovations in technology and sustainable development.

"Christchurch Airport is a leader in future thinking, as demonstrated through our partnership in the country's first autonomous vehicle trial and the world-first partnership with Alibaba," said chief executive Malcolm Johns, who added that Christchurch Airport currently generates 2.1 billion dollars in regional GDP.