A survey of 232 New Zealand-based organisations has found that 94% of them are planning to hold a business event in the next 18 months.
New Zealand’s successful response in eliminating community transmission of Covid-19 means that there are no current restrictions on mass gatherings in the country, and domestic business events can go ahead without social distancing.
As New Zealanders emerge from lockdown, a number of factors are affecting their decision-making on events, including health and safety, cancellation policies, technology and price-sensitivity.
New Zealanders are optimistic and keen to get back to the meeting room, according to the new research conducted in the Business Events sector for Tourism New Zealand.
Of organisations surveyed, 29% plan to hold events before December 2020, with the rest planning events for 2021.
Despite a two-month lockdown, the New Zealand appetite to meet face-to-face remains, or has even grown, the survey indicates, with 79% considering face-to-face conferences and offsite meetings ‘important’ for their organisation; while 39% said they appreciated the importance of face-to-face conferences and offsite meetings more now than pre-Covid-19.
Even so, events in the next 18 months will be smaller and less frequent compared to pre-Covid-19 activity: businesses expect event budgets to be reduced, while associations predict less interest from their members and to feel the effects of closed borders on international attendance.
There are, however, other barriers to booking business events that the industry can influence.
Nearly half – 45% – of respondents said that Covid-19 pandemic affected what they look for in a destination for meetings and conferences: many are more price sensitive; a large number are planning events ‘closer to home’; there is more focus on suppliers’ health and safety standards, and a greater need for teleconferencing technologies.
In response to a push for standardised health and safety information in the events sector, Conventions and Incentives New Zealand (CINZ) has released a new Voluntary Code for organisers to safely deliver events by following best practice expectations, which are based on Ministry of Health guidance to reduce Covid-19 related risks.
Inflexible cancellation policies were recognised as one of the key factors holding back organisations from committing to business events, with respondents signalling that more favourable cancellation policies to share risk would help.
Other assistance options likely to persuade organisations to hold Business Events in the next 18 months included:
- Providing added value such as free catering or transport
- Offering special rates for venues and activities
- Financial assistance such as risk analysis, funding sponsorship
‘Death by Zoom’
The survey also illustrated that technology is a growing factor in business event decision-making: 82% of the New Zealand organisations said that would be important for conference venues to offer technology that enables hybrid conferences. However, feedback suggested this could be an opportunity to build a larger, multi-channel, audience, rather than a drain on numbers.
Suppliers are therefore urged to address concerns over the perceived high cost and low quality of the technology options at some venues, with organisers wanting excellent, high-speed internet connections and multi-media delivery platforms that can combine livestream, on demand, and interactive physical attendance.
The majority (67%) of respondents said that technology is unlikely to replace the need for face-to-face conferences in the long-term: 86% believe face-to-face will remain vital for their organisation; only 15% believe technology will replace face-to-face meetings in the long-term.
Respondents noted: “Associations need to offer virtual components to their face-to-face meetings. But to work well, it needs to leverage off a physical event. The two go hand-in-hand. No one likes ‘death by zoom’. Humans like to meet.”
The results of the survey, conducted 10-19 May by Kantar, drew on replies from 232 decisions-makers from NZ-based organisations who held a business event (conference, meetings, incentive trip) domestically or internationally in the last three years. (Sample: 88 Associations/56 NFP/ 71 Corporates/17 Other).
For more on New Zealand’s Voluntary Code for the events sector, visit the CINZ website.