A lockdown in Melbourne and pause of flights to New Zealand from Victoria meant that 16 hosted buyers who were booked to fly to the two-day MEETINGS exhibition in Auckland could not attend.
Despite this, members of the New Zealand business events industry kicked up their heels last week as they welcomed 50 hosted buyers from Australia and 110 meeting and event planners from around New Zealand for the event after a two-year hiatus.
The event, which had 150 exhibitors from 18 regions this year, is organised by Business Events Industry Aotearoa (BEIA), formerly Conventions & Incentives New Zealand.
Close to 800 people connected over two days on the show floor.
Cancelled in 2020 because of the pandemic, MEETINGS 2021 had a celebratory feel, with plenty of positive energy about potential business coming from Australia over the next 12 months now that flights between the two countries have resumed.
Colette Baini, Australian hosted buyer and director of The Conference Room, described the planning, the exhibitors and the agenda of MEETINGS as all “excellent”.
“My team has attended MEETINGS most years over the past 20 years however, this was only my third, with the first few between 15 and 20 years ago,” Baini said.
“The biggest difference from then to now was the use of technology to support the event. All communication was app driven which was very much appreciated. The quality of appointments has remained at a high standard.”
While participants were extremely positive about future opportunities and regional New Zealand operators were already doing well, she added that "all businesses are facing the reality of depleted resources, less staff and issues surrounding the delivery and operation of events".
Another Australian hosted buyer, global strategic lead and general manager in Australia and New Zealand of Event Travel Management, Tracey Edwards — and a MEETINGS first-timer — said the event was both educational and inspirational.
“MEETINGS has been a valuable opportunity to find out what will inspire and excite our customers about this international destination on our doorstep. New Zealand is so easily accessible, safe, and we are always given a warm welcome.”
Edwards noted it was particularly positive to rediscover some of New Zealand’s regional destinations and what they offered in terms of team-building, tours and food, wine and shopping experiences.
BEIA chief executive, Lisa Hopkins said MEETINGS marked a turning point for the business events industry.
“It is a reflection of the way New Zealand has managed Covid-19, and BEIA is excited to help facilitate this vital connection with Australian buyers looking to bring business to our shores,” she said.
Hopkins said MEETINGS was a great example of how much has changed in such a short period of time.
“Covid-19 has expedited the need for the industry to upskill in the use of different technology platforms, systems, and devices. Events now need a Plan B, C and in some cases D.
“For this event, we implemented contactless registration for hosted buyers on arrival, thermal temperature checking, self-check-in counters with QR code registration for day buyers: essentially a no-scan, no-entry approach. We had a triage room, wider aisles between the exhibitors, and QR codes on all coaches being used for transfers,” she said.
"Our world revolves around the need to be able to deliver events in an omnichannel environment. We were preparing for a hybrid event, if our Australian buyers couldn’t attend, in partnership with our technology sponsor, EventsAIR. With the Victoria situation, we have been able to turn to that back-up plan on.
“We estimate that the Melbourne buyers were looking to place $21.5 million in business in New Zealand – that is too great an opportunity to ignore.”
One of the more popular exhibitors was the Te Pae Christchurch Convention and Exhibition Centre which opens in October this year.
Business enquiries on the rise
The Conference Room’s Collette Baine said on returning to Australia that enquiry levels for both local and inbound business for 2020 and beyond was up.
“We have secured domestic business beyond July 2021 including national events — not just Sydney based — although there remains much apprehension concerning delivery of projects in the event of further shut downs within Australia,” she said.
“Whilst we do not have enquiry as yet for New Zealand I have no hesitation in proposing events based on my own comfortable travel experience from Sydney to Auckland to Queenstown and returning to Sydney. We aim to propose Queenstown to a range of customers over the coming month.”
At the conclusion of MEETINGS some hosted buyers travelled to Waikato and Queenstown for weekend familiarisation tours. Others visited Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch prior to the start of the event.
MEETINGS 2022 will be held at the new Te Pae Christchurch from 15-16 June.