There were plenty of smiling faces at the first Society for Incentive Travel Excellence (SITE) Australia and New Zealand gathering for 2021 in late April, with members and guests buoyed by greater levels of enquiries thanks to the opening of the Trans-Tasman bubble.
Members have reported higher levels of enquiries for incentives and meetings with quite a number now recruiting for what they believe is the start of a strong end to a year which provided little positive news at the start.
SITE ANZ secretary and general manager Australia of incentives agency 212F, Belinda Ramanauskas, said 212F has definitely seen an increase in enquiry levels for travel and events over the past few weeks.
“Many of our clients who postponed programmes from 2020 have been moving forward with their plans to execute this year, and we have also had a lot of new enquiries, particularly for the second half of 2021,” said Ramanauskas.
“All of this is for domestic events. We are however, starting to have clients request that we throw New Zealand in the mix for their 2022 programmes and the New Zealand operators have been extremely proactive and supportive in providing some really tangible incentives to get our groups there.”
Similarly, SITE ANZ treasurer and supplier relationship manager at Directions Conference & Incentive Management, Michael Walker, said that Directions has had many of its clients return to live “in-person” business events in Australia.
“New business event requests have definitely increased recently so much so that we have just hired a few new staff to join our team,” Walker said.
“With the New Zealand travel bubble now open it will be interesting to see how soon our clients will start taking events offshore again. Currently we do not have any of our clients considering this option, but we are hoping that by early 2022 we will be seeing events travelling to New Zealand.”
Also seeing positive green shoots since the announcement of the Trans-Tasman travel bubble is chief executive of Business Events Industry Aotearoa, Lisa Hopkins, who said the New Zealand business events industry views the opening of quarantine-free travel between Australia and New Zealand as the beginning of the recovery phase.
"Given the longer lead times which characterise the sector, there is an understanding there will be a build before business is delivered,” she said.
“However, we are hearing of a significant increase in interest, leads and conversion. In one great example, our pre-scheduled appointment programme for MEETINGS 2021 opened the same day as the travel bubble, and we were thrilled with the immediate response.
"We have over 60 buyers and media from Australia signed up and ready to travel here in early June.”
New Zealand first, Asia next?
Hopkins added that the border opening between Australia and New Zealand signalled confidence in the industry “and we know for planners and organisers, this is what drives the opportunities”.
“We are so excited and we can’t wait to see New Zealand open up to Singapore and beyond, when it is right to do so,” she added.
Walker said despite other travel bubbles currently being considered by the Australian Government, including that between Australia and Singapore, it is still too early to tell when clients will have the confidence to take their events to Asia.
“My guess is that they will wait to see how the New Zealand travel bubble works, as well as watching leisure and corporate travel using these Asian travel bubbles before considering using them for their events,” he said.
Similarly, 212F's Belinda Ramanauskas indicated that her clients feel there is more hesitation to fly further than New Zealand at this stage.
“Realistically I don’t see groups travelling outside Australia or New Zealand until at least the second half of 2022 at the earliest,” she said.
“But the way Singapore has managed the pandemic definitely puts them high on the list for the next travel bubble and we hope to be throwing them in our clients’ mix in the not too distant future.”