We will wow them with Dunedin chic(k)

Show girls at the after-party. Photos: David Loughrey, Trenz 2017.
Show girls at the after-party. Photos: David Loughrey, Trenz 2017.
Lavish bacchanalian indulgence Trenz is coming to Dunedin next year, and the city’s tourism industry — in fact the city itself — has a chance to really impress foreigners both from New Zealand and overseas. Experienced Trenz reporter David Loughrey considers how we can make our Trenz conference better than anyone else’s.

In Auckland this month, the elaborate festival of tourism-related business that is Trenz reeled breathlessly through four days of speed dating.

International types have come to New Zealand every year since the 1960s to meet gushing locals for 15 minutes each before some mysterious transaction takes place.

They come here to collect tourist activities, then shuffle them cleverly in a pack and somehow sell them overseas in an obscure capitalist machination nobody can really explain.

That doesn’t matter.

What does matter is we love trade shows, and tourism is the it-industry this decade.

The Dunedin stands at the Trenz trade show (above), and show girls at the after-party.
The Dunedin stands at the Trenz trade show (above), and show girls at the after-party.
What’s even better is the very act of hosting Trenz — with its 1200 delegates who eat mercilessly and drink with ruthless abandon for four demented days — makes any city fabulously wealthy.

Millions of glorious dollars wash though the streets, and canny folk with a castle or a boat or some bicycles or a stately home or some other tourist distraction make bookings for years ahead.

It’s that good.

But best of all, it will give Dunedin the opportunity to finally say to the rest of New Zealand, and in particular Trenz-hosting spots like Queenstown, Rotorua and Auckland, just how very, very well the city is doing.

The key is to concentrate on our many strengths.

Contrary to what one might imagine, the obscure business transactions are just a small part of what Trenz is really about.

The key is the quality of the hosting.When attending Trenz (for reporters at least), the week is spent based in a very pleasant inner city hotel, which you did not pay for, the sort with an expansive bathroom and a comfortable bed.

A small box of Trenz-themed chocolates in a tiny box tied with a gentle bow awaits you when you arrive.

At the trade show’s centre — this year Auckland’s The Cloud — there is a free shop where you just take snacks and drinks and don’t pay for them, and a free bar at day’s end where you drink things and don’t pay for them.

Lunch? Free, and with beautifully presented desserts.

The traditionally lavish after-party was held at SkyCity, where impossibly proportioned bikini-clad Las Vegas-style models in remarkable feather head-dresses bobbed and swayed around the room.

Yes, morally sound Dunedin people with modern liberal attitudes, that actually happened.

The year before there were free luge rides at Skyline Rotorua and a room devoted to desserts, there were hot spas and daily gifts left on your bed.

That is where the bar sits — reasonably high.

But Dunedin can do better.

We will welcome our Trenz visitors, not as individuals or as disparate groups, but en masse, as a city (one of the world’s great small cities).

Conference-goers will glide gently from on high into a bucolic dream at Dunedin Airport.

They will waft on a wish across the Taieri Plain, they will meet cowboys and service station attendants, golfers and alpacas, elderly people on mobility scooters and Mosgiel boy racers, they will rise from the plain to mount the slopes that will sweep them along SH1 past Green Island before sliding down the gentle hills that protect our harbour into the sanctuary of our love.

There, they will pool in low-lying areas in heritage precincts and vibrant city streets, they will achieve enlightenment in the sanctity of our historic churches and love will shine warmly upon them beneath the steely grey of our ripped heavens.

And they will be welcomed into our collective bosom.

With a little luck the council will have pushed on with some of the tourist-oriented infrastructure programmes this column has helpfully suggested over the years, like building a copy of the Colossus of Rhodes over the Port Chalmers wharf, or adding a ninth side to the Octagon to add to our tourist appeal.

But even if they don’t, the visitors’ stay can be manifestly improved by just a few simple touches.

There will be a chocolate treat in their hotel room, but there can also be a larger box sitting upon their bed, a box that moves just a little as they go to open it.

In 1200 different hotel rooms, 1200 delegates’ faces will light up with confusion and surprise.

That surprise will quickly turn to an enthralled delight as they lift the lid on their warm little box and find the cutest, downiest little albatross chick, a gift of love from Dunedin they will be able to take home and raise in their tiny apartments, a gift that will mean they never, ever forget our home.

Anyone who had their ears open at the Auckland version of Trenz will know overseas tourists are keen to see what was described as "real New Zealanders" for an authentic experience.

Unfortunately, most of us in Dunedin are just pretend people.

Therefore, a little dressing up may be required to achieve the sort of reality required, to which end a  Driza-Bone oilskin jacket and a wide brimmed hat could be loaned for the period of the conference to every person in Dunedin, who could then go about their day-to-day activities with a lamb under one arm and a smile as wide as the Maniototo Plains under the other.

Everyone could be trained to say every time they see a visitor: "Gidday, I’m a kiwi from Dunedin, how can I help you during your stay in our city, one of the world’s great small cities?"

But the final memory is the most important for the visitor, which is why the after party might need something a little more high-brow and intellectually stimulating than semi-naked women.

This is where the University of Otago could make its presence felt, with perhaps 50 of the city’s top academics sprinkled through the well-oiled hordes of the commercial classes, engaging them in conversation about physics, musicology, engineering and philology.

Because Dunedin is not just a city of wildlife and heritage, it is a city of the highest educational standards and home to thinkers of the very highest sort.

And that is the edge the city has that will help make our Trenz conference the best that will ever be.


We might. We've only got one chic with which to 'Wow' them.