MEETINGS 2021 successfully connected the best of New Zealand’s business events industry with Australia’s and New Zealand’s leading event professionals in Auckland for two days, 2-3 June.
The event, hosted at the ASB Showgrounds and organised by Business Events Industry Aotearoa (BEIA) gathered 150 exhibitors from 18 regions with 50 Australian and 110 New Zealand hosted buyers. Three hundred local day buyers also joined in, with organisers confirming 800 people connected in-person on the show floor.
BEIA chief executive Lisa Hopkins said MEETINGS 2021 had marked a turning point for the business events industry.
“This is an extraordinary achievement for New Zealand. A significant business event featuring international buyers in a face-to-face environment. It is a reflection of the way New Zealand has managed Covid, and BEIA is excited to help facilitate this vital connection with Australian buyers looking to bring business to our shores,” she said.
Sixteen buyers originally planned to come from Melbourne were unable to attend due to the state-wide Covid lockdown in Victoria, however they did take part in a virtual appointment programme with MEETINGS exhibitors post-event.
“Covid has changed the sector over past 15 months. Working in partnership has never been more important. As an industry, we have had to learn to adapt,” Hopkins added, explaining that organisers had implemented contactless registration for hosted buyers on arrival, thermal temperature checking, and self-check in counters with QR code registration for day buyers — essentially a no-scan, no-entry approach. There was also a triage room, wider aisles between the exhibitors, and QR codes on all coaches being used for transfers.
“Covid 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,” Hopkins said.
“Our world revolves around the need to be able to deliver events in an omnichannel environment. That means it could be in person and online, fully online, on demand, by subscription, or include other elements of event delivery. 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. Buyers and exhibitors will be able to engage in their pre-scheduled appointments on-line” she added. “We estimate that the Melbourne buyers were looking to place NZ$21.5m (US$15.51m) in business in New Zealand – that is too great an opportunity to ignore.”
Hopkins also said BEIA was working with the government and tourism minister Hon. Stuart Nash in the collective recovery. “We have shared with the minister that our sector isn’t looking for hand-outs. It is looking for hand-ups, and the opportunity to continue to trade, consistently and confidently.”
Hopkins explained that for the six months from 1 July to 3 December 2020, there were 4,300 business events taking care of over 431,000 delegates in New Zealand, with an estimated spend of almost NZ$124m. While low compared to a normal year, it is at least encouraging to see that domestically, the business events industry was able to rally.
“Our goal now is to dive deeper into this, obtain a better understanding of the true value of the sector, which has been estimated around NZ$1.45bn, and to look ahead.
“This information will be critical as we start to count the days down to Te Pae Christchurch in October this year, the opening of Tākina in Wellington in 2023 and the New Zealand International Convention Centre in 2024,” Hopkins added.
Mark Gosling, chair of the Event Venues Association of New Zealand (EVANZ) spoke at MEETINGS about their collaboration with BEIA to work with government to clarify the term ‘gathering’. EVANZ and BEIA have co-sponsored a document developed by an independent specialist outlining how events can operate in a managed and controlled environment. We come from a position of experience, knowledge, and know-how to make this work,” he said.
“There is a difference between a social gathering, such as a wedding or funeral and a professionally managed and controlled gathering, like a conference. I want to acknowledge the partnership with MBIE and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet as we navigated this, and I think we got to a good position,” Hopkins said.
“This is a great example of the willingness of the events sector to be a proactive partner, offering constructive and alternative solutions to enable the industry to continue operating safely in this Covid-19 environment.,” she continued
Australian hosted buyer, Tracey Edwards, global strategic lead and general manager, Australia and New Zealand at Event Travel Management says her first time at MEETINGS had been both educational and inspirational.
“I am excited to rediscover some of the regional destinations, where our customers can make the most of their visit with unique workshops, team building, scenic touring, and enjoy local food, wine and shopping,” she said.
Christchurch-based hosted buyer, Karen Hamilton from 360 Events added that there was “a sense of urgency for booking now, looking ahead for the next two years and getting dates booked in the diaries, as we know it will only get busier”.
Lee Watkins, director of sales and marketing Wairakei Resort and Chateau Tongariro, said he had been thrilled to meet so many Australian buyers at MEETINGS.
“I’ve had 10 appointments with Australians, and business confidence is certainly surfacing again. They are looking at New Zealand as an exciting event destination, and want to learn as much as they can about the options we can offer.”
Post-show, Australian and New Zealand buyers headed to Waikato and Queenstown for weekend familiarisation experiences. Others had visited Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch last weekend prior to MEETINGS.
Next year MEETINGS will be held in Ōtautahi Christchurch at the new Te Pae Christchurch convention centre, 15-16 June 2022.