New Zealand is still navigating through Covid-19 waters, but the energy put into getting the MICE sector going is intoxicating
If there was a country that promised the exceptional experiences that come with corporate events but in a Covid-safe environment, New Zealand would easily tick those boxes.
Having managed the Covid-19 pandemic reasonably well, the country is in a better position than most to receive business groups when its borders reopen.
â€śThereâ€™s an absolute eagerness to get back on the radar for business events globally when it makes sense to do so,â€ť said Lisa Hopkins, chief executive of Conventions and Incentives New Zealand (CINZ).
â€śEveryoneâ€™s prepared to be part of the journey and weâ€™re working hard with our partners to bring visitors back into the country through our BE Reconnected event in December, which will be the only business events tradeshow in New Zealand this year and possibly the only one of its kind globally for international buyersâ€ť.
Auckland will be the focus as the host city for BE Reconnected but Christchurch is also attracting much attention, where CINZ, New Zealandâ€™s annual business events showcase, will be hosted for the first time in 13 years next May.
â€śFollowing the completion of key urban regeneration projects in Christchurch, New Zealandâ€™s most walkable city is now home to brand new business, shopping, arts and entertainment precincts,â€ť said Ross Steele, general manager of Te Pae Christchurch Convention Centre. â€śIt puts Te Pae within easy reach of more than 2,000 hotel rooms, and some of the cityâ€™s best restaurants, bars, galleries and markets.â€ť
Meantime, Hopkinsâ€™ said her previous experience working in Singapore has made her aware of the importance of safety for Asian clients.
â€śAsia is a risk-averse market but the way New Zealand has handled itself during this crisis will give comfort that visitorsâ€™ health and safety sits at the heart of our response and how we conduct business moving forward. This includes the Covid Code, an industry initiative designed to amplify health and safety measures at events, but also tracking and tracing,â€ť she elaborated.
Christchurch: city on the rise
The South Islandâ€™s largest city has shaken the dust off its last major earthquake nine years ago to emerge as the countryâ€™s newest business events destination, complete with brand new meeting spaces, inspiring public art, and restored heritage venues.
Christchurch is also described as New Zealandâ€™s future-focused city, leading in its strategic strength sectors it calls â€śSupernodesâ€ť, in areas such as global health tech, aerospace and future transport.
The much-anticipated opening of Te Pae Christchurch Convention Centre early next year will be its crown for conference meetings, located 20 minutes from the international airport.
Te Pae will offer 24 meeting rooms, a 1,400 seat auditorium divisible into two 700 seat spaces, and a 200 booth exhibition hall. It will be operating the new VenueShield environmental hygiene programme as a member of the ASM Global group.
Christchurch is also a doorway to many of the South Islandâ€™s stunning array of options for pre- and post-event touring. These include visiting vivid turqoise lakes in Mackenzie, thermal spas in the resort town of Hanmer Springs, and Kaikoura three hours north of Christchurch, where visitors can find the countryâ€™s leading eco-tourism destination and whale-watching capital.
Auckland: a seasoned, buzzing metropolis
New Zealandâ€™s largest and internationally most accessible city offers the sophistication of a big metropolis without compromising on the experiences the country is famous for.
Playing host to the 36th Americaâ€™s Cup next year, Auckland is also an innovation and technology centre with 60 per cent of New Zealandâ€™s top 200 tech companies based here.
There are several themes to choose from when it comes to experiences that may be incorporated as part of a business event or conference. For instance, bucket list adventures can include oyster-shucking on Waiheke Island, an Americaâ€™s Cup Sailing Experience, or a seafood cooking masterclass at Auckland Fish Market.
High adrenaline experiences are also on offer, where options such as eco-ziplining, luxury helicopter transfers, a seaplane ride or a climb on the Auckland Harbour Bridge are on the table.
Groups can also combine Kiwi culture with a culinary experience at the Maori Kitchen, which serves indigenous food cooked the traditional hangi way that uses heated stones in a process that takes six hours to prepare.
Aucklandâ€™s showcase convention centre, the New Zealand International Convention Centre is scheduled to open in 2023. But there are several other venues that can host more than 3,000 delegates, such as the Vodaphone Events Centre and ASB Showgrounds.
Queenstown: small town big on experiences
This famous resort town is a perennial favourite for visitors with good reason. Queenstown is synonymous with stunning landscapes and adventure-rich activities where nature does the heavy lifting for wow experiences.
Ideal for groups of up to 400 at a time, the town will be able to incorporate more experiences in a shorter itinerary with new products like the Oxbow Adventure Company, scheduled to open this year at the iconic Nevis Bluff. Guests are promised quite a ride with a world-exclusive jet sprint boating experience, 4WD off-roading and clay bird shooting on offer all in one place, function space included.
Also new and unique to Queenstown is the ability to rent handmade nordic tipis from Sweden to create distinctive, rustic glamour style pop-up settings for events and further increase event capacities.
This town is especially suited for small incentive groups with access to great wine growing regions, several international standard golf courses and diverse ski areas. Thereâ€™s even the opportunity to fit in a flight and crayfish trip where visitors can also take in views of Lake Wakatipu and glaciers of the Forbes Mountain range.
Queenstownâ€™s largest single function space is the Coronet Peak Base Building which accommodates 600 people in a theatre setting.