Millions of dollars will be injected into Dunedin next
month when the city hosts 1200 international delegates of a
marine wildlife conference, organisers say.
It will be the first time the biennial conference on marine
mammals has been held in Australasia.
Associate Prof Liz Slooten, of the university's zoology
department, who is chairing the organising committee, said
preliminary workshops for the marine mammology conference
would be held on December 7 and 8, followed by the conference
from December 9-13.
Organisers from the United States have booked out five or six
inner-city hotels, as well as Cumberland Hall.
More accommodation within university colleges, empty over
summer, was also being arranged.
The registration income alone was about $350,000, of which
about $150,000 would go to the University of Otago for
catering and venue hire.
Prof Slooten said the idea of New Zealand hosting the global
conference was mooted at the 2007 event in Cape Town.
She and others from New Zealand put in a bid to the US-based
organisers, who accepted it over a rival bid from Australia.
''It was quite simple. We just put together a three-page
proposal. A vote was held and, `nek minute' ... we're hosting
All delegates would be in Dunedin for at least a week and
many would spend closer to two or three weeks in and around
the city, Prof Slooten said.
Accommodation costs alone would be substantial, she said.
''If you think about 1200 people and the cost of an average
hotel room for a night, then consider the amount of time
they'll be here. It really will be millions, actually.''
Cumberland Hall booked out for a week ''certainly won't hurt
anybody'' and, in addition, thousands would be spent on food,
transport, tourism activities and other associated expenses,
About 2000 members of the Society for Marine Mammalogy lived
in the US and there were a few hundred others scattered
around the world.
For that reason, almost all conferences were held in the US.
The 2015 event would be in San Francisco, and the 2017
conference in Mexico, Prof Slooten said.
''They tend to find locations well in advance.''
Delegates would be world leaders in their field, and many
were looking forward to seeing New Zealand's wildlife.
They would likely tour Dunedin beaches and the Otago
Peninsula to see the New Zealand sea lion and travel to
Akaroa for Hector's dolphin sightings.
''They're the two marine mammals only found in New Zealand
and loads of people will want to see them.
''I think a lot will go on our local wildlife tours and rent
cars to drive out to beaches like Sandfly Bay.''
Whale Watch Kaikoura was a sponsor of the event and had given
organisers 100 free tickets, so many delegates would travel
to see the whales, she said.
Fiordland would also be a popular destination. Using a
standard formula for economic impact per delegate, organisers
of the recent Global Botanic Gardens Congress held in Dunedin
estimated that conference, with 347 delegates, would have
injected more than $1.5 million into the city.