FOCUS ON TAUPO & TONGARIRO Pleasure Centre – Combining business with leisure

If fresh thinking is “key outcome” sought from conferences and incentives programmes, then Lake Taupo is delivering the stuff in buckets full.
Quite aside from the regional branding: “Lake Taupo: Think Fresh!” the region handles major share of New Zealand’s corporate conference and incentives business.
Lake Taupo Convention Bureau manager Di Christie says Lake Taupo currently has some 10 percent market share of national conferences and incentives. As well, the region’s high-end lodges host significant number of international and New Zealand incentives groups.
“As far as conferencing goes, we are doing really well. We are behind only Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch and on par with Queenstown and Rotorua. Aside from the Convention Centre and Wairakei we don’t do lot of association work, our venues handle mainly corporate business and most of that is domestic. We are the perfect meeting place, virtually halfway between Auckland and Wellington.
“Groups usually drive here if they are coming from anywhere in the North Island, which is why we are popular because we are so central. South Island delegates fly direct to Rotorua and we can transfer them to their venue, or they fly to Taupo via Wellington. There are two, 20-seater flights coming in and out of Wellington and Auckland to Taupo per day. There is also the option to charter flights. Some companies, however, will not let all their employees on one plane.”
Lake Taupo is the perfect meeting place in more than the geographical sense. Much of the corporate meeting business in the region is combined with “play time”, be it team building, problem solving, or simply having fun.
Corporate adventures specialist Nick Berryman says his company, Action New Zealand, is experiencing huge growth in the corporate market and within that fun, team-based programmes have been the biggest growth area. “Groups are choosing to reward their staff and make their conference an enjoyable experience. They are looking for adventure programmes that cater for all ages and levels of fitness. For evenings, activity-based themed dinners are popular because if guests are kept busy they usually drink less, which is better for concentration the next day. Groups are always trying to improve on their previous year’s conference.”
Local farms, golf courses, the lake – of course, the Waikato and other wilderness rivers, the geothermal regions and hot springs, the forest parks and world heritage Tongariro National Park make up one massive and very scenic conference playground – or corporate challenge/team building resource or partners’ programme potential – all elements critical to providing that sought-after wow factor.
Several new developments have boosted, or are about to boost, the potential of Taupo conferencing venues. Wairakei Resort has added new facilities and is embarking on major revamp of rooms. The Outrigger Terraces Hotel has been restored to its former glory and is adding more room inventory plus major conference centre. Another grand old lady, Bayview Chateau Tongariro, boasts an entire new wing with 39 rooms and added meetings/function area. The Sir Edmund Hillary Outdoor Pursuits Centre has just opened second, dedicated education centre to meet corporate demand, and back in Taupo, the former Copthorne Manuel’s Resort has upgraded to Millennium property.
As well, Taupo is about to join the international car racing circuit, which Di Christie says will provide huge economic benefits for the region. Developments at the Broadlands racetrack, to be completed by January 2006, will provide new facilities for the conference and incentives market as well as for petrol-head enthusiasts.
Christie says the prospect o f Rotorua Airport becoming trans-Tasman gateway within two years adds to the excitement. “Australian corporates currently have difficulty getting here in one day, in one group, and they are looking for new destination. big marketing campaign on our part will need to be done if and when this happens; there are so many opportunities en route for corporate group travelling from Rotorua to Taupo.”

VENUE NEWS
Great Lake Convention Centre

There are plans to extend Taupo’s major conference centre, adding two smaller meeting rooms each seating 80 (theatre style). This will increase flexibility in the centre, which already caters for up to 600 in the main hall plus 390 in the auditorium. Meanwhile, the facility has just been repainted and refurbished.

Wairakei Resort
There have been several new developments at the region’s biggest conference and accommodation venue. The On the Rocks bar and barbecue deck, completed late last year, opens out directly from the main conference room beside one of the resort’s pools and has capacity for 90 (seated) and 150 to 180 (standing). Also completed in late 2004 is the stylish, contemporary Rangatira Suite, with two ensuite bedrooms and an open plan lounge that’s suitable for small board meetings or VIP functions.
Other Wairakei developments include the new, on-site Essence Body Divine health spa, two spa pools added to the villas area and refurbished house bar, while 40 standard hotel rooms are to be upgraded throughout the 2006 winter.
Wairakei director sales and marketing, Liz Burton, says conference and incentives business is steady from February through to end-of-the-year Christmas functions. “A lot of corporate incentive groups come in for weekend of pure fun, activities and dinners, plus there are groups who combine meetings with activities and team building throughout the week.”
Booth says Wairakei offers huge flexibility to such groups, with seven function and conference rooms able to cater for up to 600 delegates, two restaurants (including the Fairways bar/nightclub option), function catering, marquees on the lawn, golf course, tennis courts, modern well-equipped fitness centre and squash court, health spa, two heated pools, six spa pools, and range of accommodation that includes standard hotel rooms, executive spa rooms, villas and the Rangatira Suite.

Outrigger Terraces Resort Lake Taupo
This landmark Taupo hotel opened its stylishly restored doors in February last year and was taken in hand by Hawaiian hotel management company Outrigger in February 2005. An adjoining new apartment complex (with 40 dual-key suites) and dedicated conference centre (200 banquet, 350 theatre-style and ability to split to three rooms) is planned for completion by March 2007. Described variously as Taupo’s most historic hotel (it first opened in 1889) and newest boutique hotel, current facilities include two suites and 18 hotel rooms (with thermal valley or lake and mountain views), the well-appointed Terraces Bar and Café, and conference facilities such as the Cellar Restaurant (70 à la carte or 130 function), Cellar Bar (suitable for executive meetings or private dining for up to 16) and an attractive lawn for break-out sessions or weddings. To add to the cellar-named rooms, the real thing – new underground wine cellar – will soon be available for private meetings or dining (think murder/mystery) for up to 24.

Bayview Tongariro Chateau
It’s not overly apparent as one approaches Chateau Tongariro that an entirely new, multistorey wing has been added to the grand old property. Only close look reveals that the new Tongariro Wing hasn’t always been part of the 76-year-old hotel. Inside décor follows the trend – modern yet stylish, with underfloor heating and double-glazing for comfort, and soft warm colours in keeping with the old-world ambience.
The new wing has 34 premium rooms, four executive spa suites and the Te Heu Heu suite, plus the conservatory, which links the new wing with the original property and provides flexible, multipurpose venue for extra dining (up to 100 seated), conference, break-out or functions room. Executive manager Gareth Pearce says the benefit of the new wing from conference perspective is that all rooms are b

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