By Jill Varley nz ben low res

THE 19th MEETINGS events trade show in Auckland last month marked the largest on record for Convention and Incentives New Zealand (CINZ), signalling a boon for the country’s meetings and events sector which took a hit in the wake of the Christchurch earthquake in 2011.

Hosted at Auckland’s ASB Showground in early June, the 2015 event saw over 600 decision makers and 190 exhibitors from Australia and NZ take part in over 5600 appointments over the two-day tradeshow.

Sixty Australian event organisers ventured over the ditch for the annual event, with CINZ ceo Sue Sullivan claiming the organisation had seen “strong interest” in New Zealand as a place to host conferences, incentives and events.

NZ is making waves in the meetings and events sector with new convention centres in the pipeline for Auckland, Wellington, Queenstown and Christchurch. The developments mark a milestone for NZ, with Sullivan confident that the new infrastructure will see NZ capture a greater share of the growing business events market, and attract larger and more valuable conferences.

More than 15 larger conferences are already slated for the Christchurch Convention Centre when the new complex – which replaces the centre that was destroyed in the 2011 quake – opens in 2018. The new Auckland development is also expected to attract almost 22,000 additional international visitors and deliver $85.4 million in tourism related expenditure each year.

But while new convention centres were on the agenda at MEETINGS 2015, much focus was also centred on New Zealand’s regions, with seven different regional pre-tours held in Waikato, Rotorua, Taupo, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin and Queenstown.

With a surge in interest for Christchurch, BEN joined a group of hosted buyers on the Christchurch and Canterbury famil.

Starting with an early morning arrival at the family-run Commodore Airport Hotel, attendees continued on a double-decker bus tour with Hassle Free Tours. Moveable Feast Caterers provided breakfast within the hallowed cardboard walls of the temporary Cathedral before a team building activity kicked off with event caterers and equipment hire specialist, Continental. There was a look at the remarkable reconstruction of the 1908 Theatre Royal, an excellent dinner on the Christchurch Tramway Restaurant, and a helicopter ride over the city’s earthquake scars and new innovative builds with Garden City Helicopters.

Beyond the city there are many premium experiences to be had at Peppers Clearwater Resort – a golf resort with a fly fishing lake, a restaurant and event venue. Nearby is the Melton Estate Winery and Jet Thrills which offers high speed boat rides on the Waimakariri River. Dinner and an overnight stay at Heritage Hanmer Springs Hotel – framed by the snow-capped Southern Alps – also included a late night spa at Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools and Spa.

As CINZ’s Sullivan remarked, feedback from the Australian contingent was nothing short of “tremendous”. The 20th CINZ MEETINGS will be held on 15-16 June, 2016.

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