Ross Steele on Te Pae Christchurch’s official opening

Ross Steele (centre) with the Te Pae team.

To mark the official opening of Te Pae Christchurch this Friday, CIM spoke with general manager Ross Steele about the journey so far.

How exciting is it to finally open and what is the first event? It’s been a tough year for a lot people in our industry, and for those in the construction sector as well. To finally move into Te Pae Christchurch is incredibly exciting – we’re one step closer to aiding the regeneration of our city, which is ultimately why we were built.

In terms of our first events, we have the ceremonial opening this Friday followed by a couple of small test events and a public open day in the new year, and then our first client event is a banquet for a national organisation.

How are you managing bookings with so much uncertainty around quarantine free international visitation? It’s obviously been a bit of a moving feast to date, and we’ve been working closely with all our clients, particularly those in Australia to move to dates where we do expect to have more certainty. Business in the first half of 2022 is predominantly domestic, which will stand us in good stead moving forward.

We are seeing stability returning to the industry following the introduction of the new Covid Protection Framework, and we expect once there is further clarity around borders, that stability will also roll out to the trans-Tasman and international markets.

Is there enough local demand to keep things busy in 2022? Yes absolutely, we are seeing a pent-up demand particularly for Christchurch, which has translated to a solid roster of bookings for our opening year and onwards. As the first new generation convention centre to open in New Zealand and a regenerated destination for business events, it has been great to see that of the 50 plus conferences we have on our books for next year, the majority are domestic.

Hybrid events have taken centre stage during the pandemic – will these be a permanent feature for long haul destinations hosting global events? There will no doubt always be some sort of hybrid or digital component to events, it’s just the way of the world now, but Covid has also reinforced that desire for face-to-face connection – people still, and will always want to meet in person. As a new venue, we are fortunate to have all the infrastructure in place to successfully host both.

How important is the centre’s sustainability ethos for both the region and your clients? Sustainability is like wi-fi, it’s not a nice to have, it’s a must have. It’s also something that our team is passionate about and takes seriously. Right throughout our pre-opening period we have been putting systems and policies in place to ensure sustainability is at the heart of everything we do, and as a result we were delighted to achieve Toitū enviromark gold certification ahead of opening.