Slow and staggered recovery for New Zealand’s business events industry

Lisa Hopkins, Bjoern Spreitzer and MC Joe Davis at BEIA's Future of Business Events Summit.

New Zealand’s closed border was the main topic of discussion at this week’s Business Events Industry Aotearoa (BEIA) Future of Business Events Virtual Summit.

More than 430 industry representatives took part in the event, which focused on the theme ‘Rally, Rebuild and Restart’.

BEIA chief executive Lisa Hopkins and Bjoern Spreitzer, general manager domestic and business events for Tourism New Zealand, predicted a slow and staggered recovery the longer the strict international border measures, including seven-day quarantine, stayed in place.

Tourism New Zealand research shows the willingness to bid for conferences has increased, and New Zealand’s challenge now is to be present in international markets, and to stay on the map.

“To support this, BEIA will be looking at solutions to present to Government and officials on removing the MIQ impediment at the border,” Hopkins said.

“We all agree health and safety for visitors and community is a priority. Running in parallel with that work is recognition of the significance of the domestic market will remain significant. As a sector, our job is to continue to engage and excite local event owners and agencies with innovative solutions and new destinations.

“The goal of the Summit was to offer a sense of measured optimism, which will have our industry stay future-focused. We heard from international customers who told us that New Zealand is still very much a desirable destination supporting what we heard from Tourism New Zealand.”

During the Summit, BEIA presented a forecast which suggests the New Zealand business events sector will recover to pre-Covid levels by the end of 2024, which mirrors a recent report from the Global Business Travel Association.

“Business travel is a good barometer and it saw levels slump by 54 per cent,” Hopkins said.

“The business events sector in New Zealand has declined by 73 per cent in spend since 2019, down to $400 million in 2021 from a value of $1.5 billion two years ago.

“Our forecasting takes into account open borders with vaccines will still play a role, the opening of exciting new infrastructure – Te Pae Christchurch this month, Tākina Wellington and NZICC in Auckland convention centres – and Australians choosing to stay a little closer to their region (Oceania and Asia). Domestic business will start to move off-shore, but will be topped up by higher-value international visitors returning.

“However, in the immediate future, and with New Zealand operating under the Covid-19 Protection Framework, there is greater flexibility for domestic business events, provided attendees are vaccinated. Rapid antigen testing is also a tool event organisers will be able to use.”

Looking ahead, BEIA also signalled sustainable events as a major priority, with the carbon footprint events can create a key issue globally, especially for long-haul destinations such as New Zealand.

“We agree with Greg Foran, Air New Zealand CEO, who recently suggested that carbon off-setting will soon be saturated,” Hopkins said.

“However, we believe finding solutions that will support customer decisions when choosing New Zealand as a medium to long-haul destination will be our Association’s second priority after open and MIQ-free borders. Both BEIA and Tourism New Zealand are aligned in supporting the industry to play a leadership role in this.”