New Zealand kickstarts MICE recovery with in-person event

BE Reconnected reminded us all that this is a very human industry which thrives on people connecting, relationships evolving, teaching, learning, listening, transacting, innovating and creating

New Zealand’s only showcase for the business events industry this year, BE Reconnected, brought together over 420 event organisers and suppliers from around the country to Auckland on December 1.

Organised by Business Events Industry Aotearoa (BEIA), the event showed business events are not only safe, but also a vital component for widespread economic recovery.

BE Reconnected reminded the industry that it is a very human industry which thrives on people connecting; the showfloor pictured

The event included three keynote speakers, Sir John Kirwan, Cam Calkoen and Lisa O’Neill, as well as a series of regional updates from 14 different regional convention bureaux from around New Zealand, plus briefings from Tourism New Zealand Business Events.

Every attendee scanned the COVID tracer app on arrival, before walking past a thermo-imaging camera on entry to the show floor. Individually-packed lunches and disposable cups for drinks, allowed guests to quickly grab and go. A St John first responder was on site for the entire day, to ensure immediate medical attention if needed. Self-check-in kiosks were managed by staff so there would be less people handling the kiosk. The kiosks also noted the time attendees checked in and out of the event to ensure help for further contact tracing. Masks were given to those who wished to wear one at the event, and everyone who travelled to the event by air, or public transport was required to wear a mask while travelling.

BEIA chief executive, Lisa Hopkins, said attendance at BE Reconnected highlighted the pent-up demand to gather in person with colleagues at meetings and incentives — and she remains optimistic about the future of business events.

“More than 290 buyers walked through the showfloor connecting with 120 suppliers, which will go towards supporting domestic recovery. We are thrilled with the enthusiasm this event created, and how much was accomplished in one day.

“Over the next three years, New Zealand will open three international convention centres, with a combined floor space of 10 rugby fields, creating over 1,000 new jobs directly while also supporting other industries such as accommodation, hospitality, food producers and suppliers, and airlines,” she added.

Tourism New Zealand’s business events global manager, Lisa Gardiner, also presented results of a recent industry survey which showed Covid-19 has increased the value New Zealanders put on face-to-face meetings.

The survey of 125 New Zealand-based organisations found that 97 per cent are planning to hold a business event in 2021.

“The appetite for meeting is coupled with an increasingly positive attitude towards business events: 92 per cent consider in-person conferences and offsite meetings important for their organisation, up from 79 per cent of respondents in Tourism New Zealand’s May 2020 survey; and more than half (56 per cent) said they appreciate the importance of face to face meetings more now than pre-Covid-19, up from 39 per cent in May.”

Hopkins noted that BEIA is working closely with the government, and contributing to industry taskforces, to ensure that the road to recovery is as rapid and smooth as possible.

“We were reminded that in our professional industry, nothing is left to chance, and best-practice safety and hygiene can still make for an enjoyable, relaxing and inspirational event. After a year when we learned all about creating virtual and hybrid events, we all agreed nothing beats meeting face-to-face in a space where everyone feels safe and engaged,” Hopkins concluded.

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