Meetings at Mercure

New Zealand’s billion-dollar business tourism industry is hoping Meetings 2011 in Rotorua on June 22 and 23 could lead to an Australian invasion.

The industry wants to capture more Australian business and will be touting its wares to dozens of visiting conference and incentive travel planners at Meetings 2011 – an event designed to showcase the diverse range of venues, products and services New Zealand has to offer local, Australian and international corporate groups and associations.

Australia is already the key overseas market for New Zealand’s burgeoning business tourism industry, which contributes about NZD$1 billion to the economy every year, but industry leaders say there is still potential to expand.

This year 85 buyers from Australia will be attending Meetings, along with 17 hosted buyers from Asia including 10 VIP incentive travel buyers from China and seven from India, Malaysia and Thailand.

New Zealand’s appeal to the Australian market as a destination for conferences and incentive events has been soaring on the back of a favourable exchange rate and Conventions and Incentives New Zealand (CINZ) Chief Executive Alan Trotter is hoping that Meetings will lead to even greater numbers of Australians making the short flight across the Tasman.

The announcement of Auckland’s new purpose-built international convention centre is making New Zealand an even better proposition.

“We know that on a cost basis we stack up very favourably as a destination for conferences and incentives,” Trotter said. “If you do a direct comparison of the rates charged by accommodation providers in Australia and those charged in New Zealand it quickly becomes evident, even taking into account the added cost of trans-Tasman airfares, that it is more cost-effective for Australian companies and associations to host their conferences in New Zealand than on home soil.

“What we have to do now is convince the Australian market that the facilities we offer, including our new international convention centre to be built in Auckland, are as good, if not better, than what they can get in Australia, or in another off-shore destination, and that we have that x-factor they’re looking for. That’s what we’re hoping to do through Meetings.

“We are also focusing on the economies in China and India, which are continuing to boom, and we recognise the huge potential of these markets for New Zealand. Conference and incentive travel from China is growing at 20% per year and we need to be part of that.

“Our event is essentially about bringing together key decision-makers and showing them the diversity of the products and services we offer as an industry. It is about bringing buyers and suppliers together and building relationships.

“Business tourism often flies under the radar but it’s a critical component of our country’s tourism industry. It is what sustains tourism through the off-peak months. It is vitally important to our economy that New Zealand present itself as a cost-effective and attractive destination for conferences, conventions and incentive travel and why we’ve put so much effort into this flagship event. We’re hoping to get some big returns, particularly from the Australian market,” he said.

At the event last year 81% of exhibitors walked away from Meetings with new business leads.

More than 170 companies are participating in this year’s event, which is being held at the Rotorua Energy Events Centre.

HM will be reporting live from Rotorua next week from Meetings 2011 – don’t miss our exclusive video reports from New Zealand’s leading MICE event.