Future of Business Events Virtual Summit delivers optimism to NZ events industry

The business events sector will be key to New Zealand’s recovery as a visitor destination, and demand to meet there is still high despite closed borders, industry leaders told the Future of Business Events Virtual Summit last week.

More than 430 industry representatives took part in the event, run by Business Events Industry Aotearoa (BEIA). The Summit’s theme ‘Rally, Rebuild and Restart’ was appropriate after an extraordinary two years where the industry had been through a forced metamorphosis, BEIA chief executive Lisa Hopkins said.

In a joint presentation, Lisa Hopkins and Bjoern Spreitzer, general manager of domestic and business events for Tourism New Zealand said opening up the international border was paramount to the future success of the sector. They predicted a slow and staggered recovery the longer the strict border measures, including seven-day quarantine, stayed in place.

Tourism New Zealand research shows the willingness to bid for conferences here has increased, and New Zealand’s challenge now is to be present in international markets, and to stay on the map.

“To support this, BEIA will be looking at solutions to present to Government and officials on removing the MIQ impediment at the border. We all agree health and safety for visitors and community is a priority,” Hopkins said.

“Running in parallel with that work is recognition of the significance of the domestic market will remain significant. As a sector, our job is to continue to engage and excite local event owners and agencies with innovative solutions and new destinations.

“The goal of the Summit was to offer a sense of measured optimism, which will have our industry stay future-focused. We heard from international customers who told us that New Zealand is still very much a desirable destination supporting what we heard from Tourism New Zealand. I hope our audience came away feeling inspired and hopeful,” she said.

During the Summit, BEIA presented a forecast which suggests the New Zealand business events sector will recover to pre-Covid levels by the end of 2024, which mirrors a recent report from the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA).

Looking ahead, BEIA also signalled sustainable events as a major priority. Participants all agreed the carbon footprint events can create was a key issue globally, especially for long-haul destinations such as New Zealand.

“We agree with Greg Foran, Air New Zealand CEO, who recently suggested that carbon off-setting will soon be saturated. However, we believe finding solutions that will support customer decisions when choosing New Zealand as a medium to long-haul destination will be our Association’s second priority after open and MIQ-free borders. Both BEIA and Tourism New Zealand are aligned in supporting the industry to play a leadership role in this,” they said.

“Above all, our Summit reinforced the sector’s adaptability and its solutions-oriented mindset. Our sense of community and the way we worked closely and collaboratively has become a characteristic which in many ways has produced one silver lining from this pandemic,” Hopkins said.