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Demand for in-person meetings highlighted at business events showcase

New Zealand’s only showcase for the business events industry this year, BE Reconnected brought together more than 420 event organisers and suppliers from around the country in Auckland yesterday.

Organised by Business Events Industry Aotearoa, the event showed business events are not only safe, but also a vital component for widespread economic recovery.

BEIA chief executive Lisa Hopkins says the attendance at BE Reconnected highlighted the pent-up demand to gather in person with colleagues at meetings and incentives — and she remains optimistic about the future of business events.

“More than 290 buyers walked through show floor connecting with 120 suppliers, which will go towards supporting domestic recovery. We are thrilled with the enthusiasm this event created, and how much was accomplished in one day.

“Ours is a multi-billion-dollar industry with far reaching impact and business events will play a critical role supporting economic recovery,” she says.

“Over the next three years, New Zealand will open three international convention centres, with a combined floor space of 10 rugby fields, creating more than 1000 new jobs directly while also supporting other industries such as accommodation, hospitality, food producers and suppliers, and airlines."

Tourism New Zealand business events global manager Lisa Gardiner presented results of a recent industry survey which showed COVID-19 has increased the value New Zealanders put on face-to-face meetings.

The survey of 125 New Zealand-based organisations found that 97 per cent are planning to hold a business event in 2021.

“The appetite for meeting is coupled with an increasingly positive attitude towards business events: 92 per cent consider in-person conferences and offsite meetings important for their organisation, up from 79 per cent of respondents in Tourism New Zealand’s May 2020 survey; and more than half (56 per cent) said they appreciate the importance of face to face meetings more now than pre-Covid-19, up from 39 per cent in May.”

Lisa Hopkins says BEIA is working closely with the government, and contributing to industry taskforces, to ensure that the road to recovery is as rapid and smooth as possible.

“New Zealand has had a very cohesive approach from right across the tourism industry and we have collaborated, discussed, debated and advocated in a very united way,” she says,

The day included three keynote speakers, Sir John Kirwan, Cam Calkoen and Lisa O’Neill and ably supported throughout the day by master MC Greg Ward. The event also included a series of regional updates from 14 different regional convention bureaux from around New Zealand, plus briefings from Tourism New Zealand Business Events.

“BE Reconnected reminded us all that this is a very human industry which thrives on people connecting, relationships evolving, teaching, learning, listening, transacting, innovating and creating,” Lisa Hopkins says

“This event also gave us, as an industry, an opportunity to reinforce to clients our commitment to New Zealand’s Events Sector Voluntary Code and demonstrate all the practical ways it could be seamlessly delivered,” she says.

“We were reminded that in our professional industry, nothing is left to chance, and best-practice safety and hygiene can still make for an enjoyable, relaxing and inspirational event. After a year when we learned all about creating virtual and hybrid events, we all agreed nothing beats meeting face-to-face in a space where everyone feels safe and engaged.”

Every attendee scanned the COVID tracer app on arrival, before walking past a thermo-imaging camera on entry to the show floor. Individually-packed lunches and disposable cups for drinks allowed guests to quickly grab and go. A St John first responder was on site for the entire day, to ensure immediate medical attention if needed.

Self-check-in kiosks were managed by staff so there would be less people handling the kiosk. The kiosks noted the time attendees checked in and out of the event to ensure help for further contact tracing. Masks were be given away for those who wished to wear one at the event, and everyone who travelled to the event by air, or public transport was required to wear a mask while travelling. Safety Measures icon on the BE Reconnected Event App, showed all the practices implemented for BE Reconnected.

Jessica Ireland from The Incentive Lab in Melbourne, who is currently based in New Zealand, says Be Reconnected gave her the chance to make key connections with different regions under one roof.

“Once borders open there is a really good opportunity for New Zealand to capture corporate incentive travel from Australia which would have in the past gone to Asian destinations,” she says.

BEIA-Approved professional conference organiser group chair Arna Wahl Davies says BE Reconnected has felt social, engaging and positive. “ It has been a day to connect with those you work with in the events industry, but also to reflect on this year, what has been achieved and a boost forward to 2021.

“As a BEIA Approved Professional Conference Organiser, the majority of our group has been here today, proudly supporting BE Reconnected by attending and appreciated seeing so many within the supply chain at the one time to reconnect with.

Carol Rothschild, KE Creative from Melbourne who will be returning to Australia this month after nine months in New Zealand, says she will be going back to colleagues and clients with some great ideas for something different in New Zealand.

“Be Reconnected has been an invaluable opportunity to meet locals from around the regions, get new ideas and through BEIA receive introductions to people who can help us create future events here,” she says.

“A gathering like this is incredibly important for the industry, people are wanting to get together and there was a feeling of energy here, knowing we were in a safe."

ChristchurchNZ convention bureau manager Claire Hector-Taylor says the day helped establish valuable groundwork on some constructive strategic planning for 2021.

“BE Reconnected gave us a unique opportunity to present our city and region to a highly-engaged audience, demonstrating the strengths of Christchurch and Canterbury as a business events destination, and highlighting our knowledge economy and sector expertise, as well as the new venues and activities on offer in the city,” she says.

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