Future Of Business Events Virtual Summit Signals Optimism
The business events sector will be key to New Zealand’s recovery as a visitor destination, and demand to meet here is still high despite closed borders, industry leaders told the Future of Business Events Virtual Summit yesterday (9 December 2021).
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 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).
“Business travel is a good barometer and it saw levels slump by 54 per cent. The business events sector in New Zealand has declined by 73 per cent in spend since 2019, down to $400 million in 2021 from a value of $1.5 billion two years ago.
“Our forecasting takes into account open borders with vaccines will still play a role, the opening of exciting new infrastructure - Te Pae Christchurch this month, Tākina Wellington and NZICC in Auckland convention centres - and Australians choosing to stay a little closer to their region (Oceania and Asia). Domestic business will start to move off-shore, but will be topped up by higher-value international visitors returning,” Hopkins said.
“However, in the immediate future, and with New Zealand operating under the Covid-19 Protection Framework, there is greater flexibility for domestic business events, provided attendees are vaccinated. Rapid antigen testing is also a tool event organisers will be able to use,” Hopkins said.
BEIA has worked closely with government to create a guide to safe meetings under the new Covid-19 Protection Framework (CPF).
has been designed to help everyone in the business events sector understand how the CPF works and the role of My Vaccine Pass (MPV).
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.
The Summit was live-streamed from a media studio at Auckland’s Aotea Centre, and
supported by Tourism New Zealand Business Events, Celebrity Speakers NZ, Auckland Conventions Venues and Events, and produced by event and media company Uno Loco.
Event facilitator, innovator and author Joe Davis, hosted a panel of representatives from international, Australian and domestic markets, who shared their expectations and views on what 2022 will deliver and the role New Zealand plays. Managing attendee wellness was now number one priority for event organisers going forward, they said.
Patrick Rush, Senior Regional Director Asia Pacific Meetings & Events at American Express Global Business Travel said Aotearoa was well-positioned to deliver safe, sustainable and inclusive events.
Australian organiser, Rohani De Beger, Business Development Director at Veritas Events in Sydney said New Zealand was perceived as low-risk, with excellent health and safety measures, sustainability, and consistently offered an inspirational delegate experience, with easy air access.
Sir Ian Taylor ended the Summit with innovation very much in mind. He challenged the notion the sector would see pre-Covid levels in 2024, asking why that couldn’t happen sooner. When questioned, Sir Ian said he would work with BEIA and the sector in presenting solutions to Government to support earlier recovery.