Conference & Events: Conference market benefits from climbing corporate confidence

The meetings industry has always provided steady revenue stream for venues even when tourist numbers have been less reliable. In the recent post Global Financial Crisis years, there has been noticeable trend to one to two day events as workplace pressures have increased and companies have become leaner and less able to afford to have staff away from their desks.
The recent recession has been challenging for the sector as it grappled with drop in business and concurrent and ongoing rise in expectation of technology and services provided. Several of the larger venues or chains spoken to by NZ Management suggested they’d used the downtime in the recession to do refurbishments and prepare for the post-recession upturn.
“The Global Financial Crisis was in hindsight an opportunity for The Langham, Auckland and in 2009 we took our then Rangitoto ballroom out of operation in order to double its size and relaunch it as The Great Room,” explained Janine Daniel, The Langham’s director of events and conferences. “This was significant $8 million investment over six month period, but the result was venue which can now hold 1400 guests theatre style and 900 guests for banquets.”
All operators concurred that the lead times for events had shortened. “We have found that over the past couple of years we have needed to be more flexible in meeting our customers’ requirements,” added Daniel. “In fact flexibility is the name of the game in terms of responding to volatile market.”
The practice of organising events and conferences with very short lead-time seems to be more prevalent here than other countries, says Monique Surges, chief executive of the New Zealand German Business Association. She takes many business groups to trade shows and conferences in Europe and assists New Zealand companies to exhibit. She is constantly astounded by the late planning of New Zealand companies when some major European events are booked out years in advance.
Although currently having to deal with the short lead-ins, all the operators spoken to agreed that further out business was getting better. “We are now finding more stability with our longer lead business and that greater assurance is returning with larger conventions now booking and confirming as far out as 2013,” says The Langham’s Daniel.
Noel Dillon, general manager sales & marketing for Heritage Hotel Management, says the conference business in New Zealand continues to reflect increased confidence from the corporate sector compared to last year. Interest from Australia is high and forward enquiries are coming in as far ahead as 2014.
“While the lead in time for New Zealand companies confirming conference bookings has reduced, overall the future outlook for domestic conferences is positive for the Heritage Hotel group.”
Natasha du Plessis, director of corporate sales for Scenic Hotel Group, was also positive about the future booking trends.
“We are definitely experiencing the beginnings of an upward trend in domestic conference and event bookings at our Scenic Hotel Group properties. We are seeing heightened interest in our regional destinations, particularly into Dunedin, Blenheim and Paihia.
“It is very encouraging to see the domestic business market looking beyond the city limits and venturing into our fabulous regional centres. This is positive trend for our company as we look forward to continued growth in 2012.” M

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