The New Zealand conference industry is thriving. The domestic market in particular is running at record high levels perhaps, as Conventions and Incentives New Zealand CEO Alan Trotter puts it; "reflecting the current robust state of the New Zealand economy".
And Taupo is grabbing more than its share of this new market growth. The reasons for this spurt in conference activity may have much to do with the buoyancy of our economy, but there are other more global factors which are undoubtedly playing a part.
New Zealand is increasingly seen as a safe and secure destination for business tourism, of which conferences are a major component. And if the world outside sees us as a rather more settled environment in which to meet and build strategies for the future, so we in turn seem less interested in seeking out exotic offshore destinations to stage our corporate get togethers.
According to Trotter, our international (business tourism) growth is increasing at around eight percent a year with lots of Australian interest in particular. Almost 60 percent of our annual 45,000 international conference arrivals hail from across the Tasman. Australians might call us the "Shaky Isles" but an ever increasing number of them see New Zealand as decidedly more settled than other Asian destinations for instance. The increasingly close economic and political ties between New Zealand and Australia are also important drivers of the trend to meet here.
As for Taupo's increasing appeal as a primary destination, well it all links to its aggressive marketing of its increasingly professional and conference-friendly facilities, its ideal geographic location, the stunningly attractive environment and the increasing array of corporate attractions such as golf, fishing, adventure, boating and other off-site activities which conference organisers believe deliver balance to the work sessions.
Destination Lake Taupo, the region's umbrella tourism organisation, takes its marketing role seriously in an increasingly competitive environment. Di Christie, manager of the organisation's convention bureau, says the corporate and association conference market is becoming increasingly sophisticated. "We offer a complete conference planning service, liaising with the region's venues and other industry partners, to make a client's experience of Taupo both professional and rewarding," says Christie.
Conference delegates are attractive visitors for areas like Taupo. They spend around three times the average daily spend of a "normal" tourist, according to Trotter, and so international conference activity now contributes about $260 million a year to the country's GDP. Estimates are that the domestic contribution is three times this figure so it is now a $1 billion a year business for New Zealand. And of the two types of conference, corporate (which makes up 76 percent) and association (24 percent) Taupo now holds around 15 percent of total market share.
We did some sampling of what Taupo has to offer.
"Stressed out executives arrive from Auckland on a Friday night and find that within half an hour they have already relaxed into the tranquillity of the surroundings," says Huka Lodge's Nicolette Groenendijk. Taupo's picturesque natural assets make it an ideal centre for business conferences or incentive programmes, she adds. And she should know. Huka Lodge has probably received more "exclusive end" of the market international travel destination awards than just about any other New Zealand destination.
Taupo perches on the northern shores of New Zealand's largest freshwater lake. The lake is the biggest volcanic crater in the Southern Hemisphere. Today the town and its adjoining region specialises in smaller (under 250 delegates) conferences and conventions.
Larger conferences, of up to 1000 delegates, are catered for by three larger Facilities, Taupo Events Centre, Wairakei Resort and the Great Lake Convention and Entertainment Centre. …