Around 600 event organisers gathered in Auckland to attend two days of appointments with almost 200 exhibitors at ASB Showgrounds. This year there were 19 regions on show, part of CINZ’s effort to highlight regional New Zealand.
CINZ chief executive Sue Sullivan says delegates to New Zealand spend on average 4.2 nights in the region and 1.8 outside, which means they travel outside of the host region of their conference or event.
“Regional dispersal in countries such as ours is critical,” says Sullivan. “Tourism and business events provide opportunities for economic growth in regional New Zealand.”
New Zealand’s rich Māori culture was also at the fore, with CINZ cultural ambassador Ngahi Bidois taking part in the event and offering his blessing to delegates. Sullivan says this type of role is becoming more common among businesses in New Zealand.
“Māori tourism for the first time is starting to engage in this sector,” she says. “Our role is to educate the sector on how culture can be woven more deeply, into business events – from emceeing, to the food, or storytelling.”
Education was another key theme, with the Education Hub making its debut at MEETINGS 2017.
“As more of the large venues come on stream, we need to be building capability in regional New Zealand and within our large cities,” says Sullivan. “We have a job, along with the operators, to upskill and educate. The Education Hub is designed to allow the industry to understand what is on offer and begin the conversations.”
As part of the pre-show famil program, 10 regions were on show to delegates, including a three-day tour of the Christchurch and Canterbury region. Christchurch is well on its way to becoming a brand new city, as it continues to rebuild following the devastating 2011 earthquake. While the city endeavours to maintain as much of its heritage as possible, there is a plethora of new-build, modern facilities emerging, making Christchurch a city to watch.
One of the noticeable things about the CBD is its colour. From street art to colourful café facades, Christchurch feels alive and inviting, which is what the city set out to achieve post-earthquake. Hidden amongst the vibrant walls are a number of new dining outlets and bars, including Little High Eatery, made up of eight different local businesses serving pizza, sushi, burgers and more.
At MEETINGS, the latest designs for the Christchurch Centre were released, giving delegates a first look at the development, which is slated for completion in late 2019. The centre will be able to host up to 2000 delegates in its purpose-built spaces, which include a tiered 1400-delegate auditorium that can be divided to allow up to two or three events to run concurrently, a 3600sqm exhibition hall and 1600sqm of meetings rooms.
General manager Rob McIntyre says the blank canvas that the centre is being built on allowed the designers to “avoid the traps of so-called flexible venues”.
“Instead we designed it around how our clients operate in reality, with seamless and non-overlapping transitions between sessions,” he says.
The centre is ideally located within walking distance to many new and refurbished hotels, including the recently opened Crowne Plaza Christchurch, which offers 204 rooms, a café, bar and restaurant and four event spaces. Also on offer is the Commodore Hotel, which features modern guest rooms following its recent refurbishment, and seven conference rooms for up to 200 delegates, as well as The George, which boasts luxury accommodation and a two-hatted restaurant.
While the city awaits the arrival of the Christchurch Centre, it’s finding other ways to accommodate business events by utilising existing venues, such as the Isaac Theatre Royal, that can host cocktail or seated events on the theatre stage or in its purpose-built event space. The Air Force Museum of New Zealand can also host events in its 1500sqm Conference and Events Hall or the Aircraft Hall pre-themed with vintage aircraft and theatrical lighting. Christchurch’s Cardboard Cathedral not only serves as the city’s temporary church, but can also be hired for events. With a roof made from cardboard tubes and shipping containers for walls, the Cardboard Cathedral is the definition of a unique event space.
Christchurch and Canterbury Convention Bureau manager Caroline Blanchfield says the city is embracing its mix of old and new, highlighting that the Avon River precinct is now open – an exciting step forward for the city.
“What we’ve done is turned the city to the river,” she says. “The linkage between the architecture and the river is coming alive now, and so that’s actually becoming the hub of the city.”
The city has also introduced shared promenades and lowered the CBD speed limit to 30km/hr, making it safe and accessible for drivers, pedestrians and cyclists. Combining that with its compact layout and plethora of hotels and venues, Christchurch is rebuilding itself into a city that’s tailor-made for business events.