Business travel planners in Asia are seeing a shift in buyer sentiment in favour of more premium destinations like New Zealand, despite the higher costs.
Known for its pristine environment, world-class cuisine and stunning landscapes immortalised by the Lord of the Rings movie franchise, New Zealand has traditionally been regarded as above budget for many event planners in the region, preferring destinations in Europe.
However, sentiment has been changing since the pandemic.
“The price for New Zealand is often twice the price of European destinations because there’s not much choice in air routes,” Yento Chen, CEO of Jakarta-based Destination Tour told TTGmice.
“But lately, we’ve had a few enquiries for New Zealand so I took the opportunity to see the country (on a post-AIME fam programme in February). It’s been quite dramatic because my first invitation to see the country 19 years ago didn’t work out and my second was cancelled because of the pandemic. When I finally got to see the country, I was wowed and amazed by the infrastructure, the hospitality and the friendliness of the people,” he continued.
Chen also confirmed there was a current appetite for higher budgets as people emerged from the pandemic, and is organising three Indonesian incentive groups to New Zealand of up to 60 people.
“From my observation, people are wanting to connect with nature post-Covid and New Zealand is one of the best in the region for this. I’ve also seen business class seats fully booked while economy seats are still available. It seems people are willing to pay despite the higher airfares but I’m really hoping there will be more direct flights from Jakarta to Denpasar direct to Auckland,” he said.
Natchavee Angsuwattananon, responsible for conference services for the Asia Pacific chapter of the World Aquaculture Society, shared that it was time to look to countries like New Zealand for their meetings.
“We were already planning an event in Australia, so we’re trying to expand to New Zealand as we’d like to try a new destination we haven’t experienced,” she said.
“The country showcases its natural environment, it’s peaceful and beautiful. Its cities and venues are convenient for organising events. Plus New Zealand’s aquaculture industry produces some of the world’s best seafood,” she added.
Ivan Wahyudi, head of operations at Jakarta’s Samasta Tour and Travel which organises incentive and conferencing events, agreed that New Zealand was becoming a more popular request, helped by the popularity of the Lord of the Rings and Avatar movies.
“But on a scale of one to five, I would say it’s a three because there are currently no direct flights and we also have to apply for visas first,” he said.
Tourism New Zealand (TNZ) noted it has been receiving more leads for incentive groups out of South-east Asia over the last six months.
“(There’s) a trend towards smaller, high-end programmes (with) business predominantly coming from insurance, direct selling and finance sector incentive groups,” TNZ’s general manager New Zealand & business events Bjoern Spreitzer told TTGmice.