New Zealand is ‘Punching Above Its Weight’ as Conference Destination

Author: Lane Nieset       

New Zealand

New convention centres are set to open in 2020 in Auckland (above) and Christchurch, New Zealand. The country’s profile as a meetings destination is growing. (Chris McLennan/NZ Tourism)

New Zealand’s two newest conference centres may not be opening — in Christchurch and Auckland — until 2020, but the country is already attracting a growing number of international conferences, activity that boosted the economy by nearly $50 million last year alone.

In 2018, New Zealand hosted 64 conferences, an increase of 33 percent since Tourism New Zealand’s Business Events Team was born in 2013, CIM Business Events reported. Now, according to ICCA, New Zealand ranks 46th in the world as a conference destination (up five places from 2017) and 12th in the Asia Pacific region.

New Zealand

Anna Fennessy

“New Zealand is punching above its weight as a conference destination, winning more conference business than ever before,” Tourism New Zealand Business Events Global Manager Anna Fennessy said in a statement.

And that’s despite the terror attacks earlier this year at two mosques in Christchurch — attacks that some felt might put a chill on visits to New Zealand.

“We are not seeing any impact on visitor numbers following the Christchurch attacks,” Fennessy told Convene. “In fact, Christchurch is reporting steady visitation and we are seeing continued interest in visits to newzealand.com, our consumer site. Tourism NZ runs consumer market research in all of the country’s key markets. That data shows no evidence that there has been a statistically significant change in the number of consumers that have a desire to visit New Zealand or are interested in New Zealand.”

Te Pae Christchurch, the convention centre due to open next year, has already secured bids for events like INTECOL’s 11th International Wetlands Conference, which is to bring 1,000 delegates to the city in 2020.

“Alongside sophisticated conference venues and stunning scenery, New Zealand is seen as having one of the warmest welcomes in the world,” Fennessy said. “We’re outperforming much larger, more easily accessible destinations through our manaakitanga and hospitality.”

Manaakitanga, the Maori word that roughly translates as “hospitality,” is part of what’s helping the country secure bids for conferences like last year’s joint meeting of the Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections and theBiodiversity Information Standards community (Taxonomic Database Working Group — TDWG). Some 365 researchers who specialize in the care of natural history collections met in Dunedin and worked alongside venues like the Otago Museum and University of Otago.

“The conference has certainly put Dunedin on the international map in terms of natural science collections and bioinformatics, and the benefits for the New Zealand community, attracting specialists from around the world, was huge,” Robert Morris, director of collections, research, and education at Otago Museum, told HQ The Association Magazine.

Nearly 80 percent of the delegates were international and many chose to tack on extra time to see more of the country after getting a taste of the local offerings, HQ reported.

In April 2018, Dunedin also hosted the world’s largest and leading conference in the field of science communication, the Public Communication of Science and Technology Conference, which brought an estimated $1.7 million to the local economy.

“The future outlook is very positive,” Fennessy said in a statement. “Business events deliver significant economic benefits to our communities.”