Be ready, tourism bodies told

Convention centres in Queenstown, Christchurch and Auckland could be open for business by 2019, with a total capacity increase of 6000 delegates.

Conventions and Incentives New Zealand (Cinz) chief executive Alan Trotter said at the opening of Meetings 2013 in Auckland last week the increased capacity would create new opportunities for marketing New Zealand as a business-event destination.

New convention centres will also drive greater hotel investment and benefit the entire tourism industry, Mr Trotter said.

''Lead times are anything between three and seven years, so 2019 sounds a long time, but in terms of how the market works, it's not.

''As soon as these projects are confirmed, the industry needs to get out marketing, because they need to be full and they need to hit the ground running.''

Queenstown Lakes District Council chief executive Adam Feeley updated councillors on the proposed $50 million convention centre for the resort during the council meeting last week.

Mr Feeley said he was preparing the summary report, the economic report and the assessment of council-owned sites as options for the location of the centre, for community consultation to begin early next month.

The advantages and disadvantages of operating a convention centre high up on the preferred site of council-owned land called Lakeview, on Man St, versus a downtown convention centre with business on the doorstep for delegates, would be detailed in the site assessments.

Destination Queenstown and more than 20 Wakatipu operators were among the record 180 suppliers dealing with 185 hosted buyers from Australia, China, Southeast Asia and North America and 400 domestic day buyers during the biggest business tourism industry expo in New Zealand history last week.

Auckland Tourism Events and Economic Development chief executive Brett O'Reilly told delegates there were several other spin-offs of convention activity.

''One is delegate spend, which is anywhere between three and five times that of the normal international visitor.

''Equally important is seasonality and what kind of visitor can realistically be targeted in the off-season. The answer is conventions; research tells us clearly the busiest month for convention activity in Auckland is August, and internationally, September.''

Mr O'Reilly said delegates were not going to come from Europe to Auckland just for a three-night conference.

''They're going to stay here for a week or more, bring family and visit other parts of New Zealand, so it's really win-win.''

Mr Trotter said the other benefit of convention activity was the ''knowledge transfer'' that accrues to a country hosting a major scientific, legal or medical convention.

''You're getting the best brains in the world coming to your country, engaging with your own scientists or doctors. That connection and injection of knowledge is just fantastic.''


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