As nations and enterprises across the globe wrestle with the challenges of climate change, environmental degradation and urbanisation, New Zealand is seemingly a living antidote to many of the ills on the planet.
Stable politically and boasting a well-educated and energetic community, New Zealand is a shining example of what a small country can do to overcome the tyranny of distance and a puny population of just 4.25 million on a land mass that is about the same size as the UK.
New Zealand’s great advantage is that it provides its corporate visitors a wide range of experiences without all the time-wasting that often occurs when operating in large population centres elsewhere.
The infrastructure in terms of transportation, hotels and attractions is world class and there’s plenty of competition in the market to ensure destinations provide good value.
New Zealand comprises two islands. The North Island has Auckland in the north and Wellington, the national capital, in the south. The South Island is the more physically spectacular of the two, with Christchurch as its urban population centre. Other significant destinations on the South Island are Queenstown and Dunedin.
There’s also plenty of variety in the country’s main cities.
Auckland is the commercial hub of New Zealand, a gleaming modern metropolis set on a magnificent harbour and offering a “big city” experience of restaurants, casinos, yacht racing and shopping. The successful hosting of that plaything of the mega-rich, the America’s Cup, breathed fresh life into the city’s waterfront and surrounds, creating an ambience and energy that conference and incentive organisers can feed off.
The city is compact and well provided with hotels, most of which offer first-class meetings facilities. The harbour opens out into the Hauraki Gulf, where there are a number of islands that can be profitably explored, and where some of the premium New Zealand vineyards are to be found.
Wellington is the national capital, with a vibrant cultural life, stemming from a range of museums and galleries. It is also blessed with a beautiful waterfront location and is home to “Te Papa”, the impressive National Museum of New Zealand. There are four distinct quarters for shopping, each with its own style. There’s Lambton Quay for luxury, Willis Street for the more high-brow persona, Cuba Street for something a little more bohemian and Courtenay Place for sheer entertainment and culinary experiences.
The city has an abundance of culture – theatre and other arts. Music-makers and music-lovers alike are drawn to the city, especially during its biennial New Zealand International Festival of Arts.
Christchurch is the principal city of the South Island, located on the Canterbury Plains. It’s an absolute gem – a city of beautiful gardens, English-style architecture and a thoroughly genteel ambience. It boasts New Zealand’s best dedicated convention centre and the benefit of having everything in close proximity around an extremely attractive city centre. An international airport means delegates and groups can fly direct from Australia and Asia with excellent links from the long-haul markets.
For all the attractions New Zealand cities provide, the real point of difference for the international visitor comes in the great outdoor experiences the smaller country towns offer. The rich Maori culture, the natural wonders of Rotorua, the beauty of Lake Taupo, and adventure activities offered by the Queenstown are but some of the options for the event planner when considering New Zealand. It’s a destination that is forever reinvigorating its products and services, so if it’s a decade since you last experienced it, it’s certainly time for you to take another look.
OUTSIDE CITY LIMITS
The New Zealand wine industry has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years, largely due to the world trend to cool climate wines. The Marlborough region in the northeast corner of the South Island is celebrated for its white Sauvignon Blanc wines and offers more than 64 wineries and over 4,000 hectares of plantings in the most scenic countryside. Some of the world’s most southerly vineyards are to be found on the South Island, with several notable ones around Queenstown. Many of the wineries have highly regarded restaurants and are geared to handle the specific needs of well-budgeted incentive groups.
There’s plenty of experience with the international market at hand. New Zealand currently attracts around 73,000 international convention delegates and as would be expected, the bulk of these originate from Australia.
However, Asian convention arrivals are growing steadily, particularly from North East Asia, followed by Southeast Asia, and the Indian sub-continent.
Incentive arrivals also are climbing, particularly from Singapore and Hong Kong. China is emerging as a key leisure market for New Zealand and also for conventions. And with the imminent signing of the first free-trade agreement between New Zealand and China, business tourism is expected to boom between the two countries.
Although New Zealand has an excellent reputation for small unique luxury lodges and boutique hotels scattered in areas of outstanding natural beauty, increasingly, incentive groups from Asia are using larger five-star hotels in the major centres, such as SKYCITY Grand and the Langham Hotel Auckland, as well as the larger chain properties of the InterContinental Hotel Group, Millennium Hotels & Resorts, and Accor, which have products throughout New Zealand and can offer multidestinational packages for both incentive groups as well as pre- and post-convention trips.
New Zealand is a destination for travel all year round. Visitors need to prepare for cooler conditions, though the occasional heat wave is also not uncommon in the North. Winter offers an exciting option, especially for the snow fields of the South Island. It’s really important that good advice be taken from the destination management companies with regard to appropriate clothing as cold and wet outfits can swing perceptions of an outing, irrespective of how exciting it might have been.
While there’s much temptation to travel south from Auckland to the hotspots of Rotorua and Queenstown, there’s also a good case to be made for Northland, the exquisite northern tip of the North Island, best known for the Bay of Islands with its luxury lodges and golf courses hugging a rugged coastline. It’s a mild area weatherwise, to the extent that it even has banana plantations.
As an overall package, Rotorua has just about everything that the meeting and event planner could possibly want from a destination.
There’s a good spread of accommodation, a purpose-built convention centre and good transport links, but it’s the natural and cultural assets that are the major attractions.
Located in the centre of the North Island, Rotorua is the most dramatic of destinations, with geysers, bubbling mud pools, natural mineral spas, a magnificent system of lakes, volcanic remnants, native forests and activities for everyone.
The town is a heartland of Maori culture and there are ample opportunities to experience Maori hospitality and meet with the descendants of the original Te Arawa tribes which made Rotorua their home. There are a number of marae (meeting grounds) in the Rotorua district and cultural nights are a staple of any conference meeting in the area.
ROYAL ADVENTURES IN QUEENSTOWN
We were tearing down the Kawarau River, our helicopter well below the trees lining the banks when we came upon a jetboat loaded with excited tourists.
The only problem was they hadn’t spotted the chopper due to the roar of their boat. So when the jetboat driver spun the boat sending a spray of water splashing the chopper, the image was worthy of a James Bond movie.
Incentive travel is mostly for “doers” rather than sightseers – shared adventure and camaraderie for people who perform at the front of the pack.
Queenstown, tucked around the shores of Lake Wakatipu in the alpine country of New Zealand’s South Island is not simply a photogenic Southern Hemisphere version of Switzerland. True, it’s the premier ski destination for Australians and New Zealanders, but there is so much more besides.
The transformation of Queenstown over the past 15 years has been nothing short of phenomenal – and it seems set to continue.
While the town is best known as the adventure capital of the Southern Hemisphere, where bungy and jet-boating took hold, Queenstown today goes beyond that.
Meeting and incentive planners can draw on an unparalleled level of expertise for a town of its size, with six destination management companies alone.
The deluxe, 82-room Sofitel Queenstown has brought five-star comfort and service to the town for the first time, not that venues such as the Millennium haven’t maintained a high level of service to meeting planners. The Sofitel is located right in town, but on enough of an elevation to give guests sweeping lake and mountain views from every room.
The venue has all the latest audio and visual equipment for up to 30 guests.
The dominant mountain range known as the Remarkables is aptly named and a heli-tour makes for pictures of a lifetime. Much of the filming of the smash hit trilogy films of JRR Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings was shot in this area and the Kiwis have not wasted a minute in turning the various locations into tourist destinations.
Outside town is Millbrook, a deluxe golf and spa resort where the likes of Bill Clinton have taken to the fairways with their snow-flecked mountain backdrops.
CLUEDUP – WELLINGTON
CONFERENCES & EVENTS
Nelson and Wellington
QUEENSTOWN DESTINATION MANAGEMENT
New Zealand is approximately a 10-hour flight from most places on the Pacific Rim, such as Singapore, Hong Kong and Tokyo. Two national airlines service most New Zealand towns and cities, including resort areas.
Currently, travellers from more than 50 countries do not require a visitor’s visa for stays of less than three months. You do require a passport that is valid for at least three months after your departure from New Zealand and an onward or return ticket to a country that you have permission to enter.
Both the North and South Islands of New Zealand enjoy moderate, maritime climate.
Wilna van Eyssen is a director of Auckland-based specialist EventSmart.
The wide range of outdoor activities and cultural experiences makes New Zealand an ideal location for international visitors.
Coupled with a range of award-winning wines and fantastic food, this country caters for all tastes and cultures. It’s small enough for your group to feel special but big enough with a lot of areas to cover.
Popular locations would include Auckland, otherwise known as the City of Sails. From a city perspective, this location is great for larger groups with a range of activities that would keep the adrenaline junkies amused and the people interested in culture occupied long enough.
Great hidden locations include the Cruising Clubs where we did a fantastic year-end function for Sharp New Zealand. A magnificent event overlooking the city lights and the fleet of yachts that the city is famous for.
Heading south to Rotorua, you get to the heart of the North Island, where you can experience the Maori culture firsthand by doing a hangi, cooking food in a pit, a cultural concert or see the volcanic action that the country is so well known for.
We recently organised a conference dinner for the Stella Group here in “Rotovegas”, as it’s known, casino-style complete with a wedding chapel! Heading further south, Wellington boasts a range of magnificent museums and cultural experiences, with fantastic vineyards and a small-city atmosphere.
If the South Island appeals, you have some great locations between Queenstown and Christchurch with a vast array of activities for the thrill-seekers as well as spectacular natural sites.
For two decades, Alan Trotter has been a familiar figure at industry events worldwide, the convivial chief executive of Conventions & Incentives New Zealand (CINZ) assesses the destination’s inbound potential.
New Zealand currently attracts just under 2.5 million tourists annually, most of whom travel between September and April resulting in capacity issues during these months.
But, for the rest of the year, New Zealand is comparatively quiet and has ample capacity to cater for inbound tourists, particularly business tourists coming to attend conventions.
Incentive travel into New Zealand tends to mirror leisure travel with the bulk of arrivals coming during the high-season months, but the daily spend of an incentive visitor at approximately US$760 per day is around seven times that of a normal international visitor.
Incentive participants are “top shelf” and given all the attention they deserve.
Convention arrivals into New Zealand have been growing at a steady 8 to 9 percent a year for the past five years. Incentive arrivals from Asia have been identified as an area of potential growth, particularly from Hong Kong, China, Malaysia, India and Thailand.
There may be the possibility of CINZ opening an office in one of the key Asian markets to assist this process. “
SKYCITY is the entertainment hub of Auckland and most popular with groups. The action occurs on and around Sky Tower. At a height of 328 metres, it is the tallest tower in the Southern Hemisphere and the landmark symbol of Auckland. Facilities comprise a convention centre, live theatre, a 344-room hotel, restaurants and bars.
The SKYCITY Hotel has 32 executive suites and a further six deluxe suites, services include a rooftop heated pool.
SKYCITY Auckland Convention Centre is Auckland’s only purpose-built exhibition, conference and banqueting facility that is all under one roof, so delegates don’t have to move between different venues. It comprises two levels dedicated to conferencing, exhibition and banqueting space. The exhibition space of 1,080sqm has an additional 400sqm of foyer space and capacity for up to 70 trade booths. There are break-out rooms, two boardrooms and a well-equipped business centre.
SKYCITY Auckland offers international-standard casino gaming entertainment at four venues – SKYCITY Casino, PLAY casino, and the exclusive Pacific and Platinum Rooms. There are 1,600 gaming machines and over 100 table games. The casino is open 24/7 and is New Zealand’s largest. Table games include blackjack, baccarat, caribbean stud poker and roulette.
Sky Tower’s Orbit is a revolving à la carte restaurant offering contemporary New Zealand cuisine. Ideal on the first day of a group event for lunch or dinner, the restaurant makes a full revolution every hour and provides a stunning view of the city and harbour. An alternative buffet bistro restaurant is located
Sky Jump at Sky Tower lets thrill seekers leap from the tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere. Described as “base-jumping by cable”, Sky Jump is a thrilling 192m controlled fall. Jumpers leap from level 53 of Sky Tower decelerating to land 16 seconds later.
Helicopter sightseeing: Even slim budgets should be squeezed to provide a short trip over the Remarkable Mountains and Lake Wakatipu.
Shotover Jetboard: It’s being imitated all over the world, but there’s little to match the Shotover experience of belting through a narrow gorge with a completely fearless young Kiwi at the helm. As an alternative to the Shotover River, take a trip up the Dart River on a jetboat from Glenorchy and then float back down to Lake Wakatipu on the “fun yaks”, inflatable canoes with which you float through valleys carved by glaciers and rainforests and where the younger trees are around 500 years old.
Milford Sound: It’s a 12-hour day by road through some of the country’s most spectacular fiordland scenery. There are also several fly-in, fly-out options. Milford is quite magnificent, with crashing waterfalls and sheer mountains falling into deep waters. The tourist industry here is well regulated and most efficient.
Some of the most Southerly vineyards on the planet are to be found in the Queenstown area and Gibbstone Valley Wines is one of a number who have European-style cellars burrowed into the mountainside and serve the fresh produce – cheeses, venison, trout etc – for which New Zealand is so renowned.
Mix offers some properties, each possessing some unique feature for event planners to consider
Langham Hotel Auckland
Langham Hotel Auckland in Symonds Street is close to the Queen Street shopping thoroughfare and in easy walking distance of Auckland Domain, the city’s main green swathe with its museum and city outlook. It’s an elegant, five-star hotel, regarded as one of the city’s best and is part of the Hong Kong-based international chain.
The Langham is a large property, with over 400 guestrooms and 15 conference spaces, including one of New Zealand’s largest ballrooms.
The hotel’s Partington’s restaurant has garnered many awards for its menu and wine list and is renowned for the fine produce, sourced from all corners of New Zealand. Food and beverage is a strong selling point for New Zealand, given the “clean, green” emphasis on the country’s primary production.
Heritage Hotel and Spa
Heritage Hotel and Spa Du Vin is a good hotel alternative, located just 45 minutes south of the Auckland. It is nestled in a valley, with vineyards and natural bushland that help create a restful ambience for groups involved in teambuilding or strategy development. Accommodation is provided in 48 luxuriously appointed chalets.
Being in easy proximity of the city, speakers, arranging for trainers and entertainers is convenient. The venue has 12 dedicated spaces for meetings and can cater for up to 100 participants.
Other facilities include an indoor heated swimming pool, wine gift shop, tennis, volleyball, archery, claybird shooting and a fitness trail. The spa is created in the shell of an old winery, and spa treatments can be built into an incentive programme as part of the teambuilding exercise.
Millennium Hotel Rotorua
Millennium Hotel is one of a number of hotels in Rotorua that have a busy conference and banqueting division. The 227-room hotel is located close to Lake Rotorua, the convention centre. It has a dedicated day spa and heated swimming pool. The hotel is the preferred caterer for the Rotorua Convention Centre and the venue’s conference rooms can accommodate up to 500 guests.
New Zealand has a worldwide reputation for its small luxury lodges, which cater well for small executive meetings that can typically take over the entire venue. One such in the Rotorua area is Solitaire Lodge, which is located on the beautiful Lake Tarawera, overlooking Mount Tarawera, which erupted back in the 19th century.
The lodge has just ten luxurious suites and offers a menu featuring the very best of New Zealand cuisine. There’s a dedicated meeting room available separate to the main lodge which can comfortably accommodate up to 20.
There is a wide range of water activities on offer on the lake, trout fishing, hot water springs on Lake Tarawera accessible only by boat; nature walks and helicopter sightseeing.
A range of high-quality charter vessels can be retained for day trips and picnics on Lake Tarawera directly from the lodge.
Wellington’s InterContinental Hotel
Wellington’s InterContinental Hotel in Grey Street is a good example of the capital city’s business hotels and is well geared to meet the needs of the event planner.
Hemmed in by mountains and contained by sea, Wellington has had to use its space very economically and this has led to an interesting city with plenty of character.
The InterContinental has space for up to 400 guests in the largest of its six meetings rooms, the Lambton Ballroom.
For a bit of leisure after the meeting, the Wairarapa Wine Region and Karori Wildlife Sanctuary make interesting excursions.