10 Dec 2021

'Slower and staggered recovery' for conference industry when borders open

10:48 am on 10 December 2021

The conference industry is looking for solutions and optimism as it wrestles with significant losses from the pandemic.

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Photo: Unsplash / Samuel Pereira

An industry worth $1.5 billion two years ago has been slashed by almost three quarters to $400 million.

Industry leaders met during a virtual summit, discussing whether they would see any international briefcases in their conference rooms any time soon.

Sir Ian Taylor was the keynote speaker of The Future of Business Events Virtual Summit, and said people were too focused on holding virtual conferences.

"There is nothing to match a real conference so we should be or you should be - we're happy to work with you to think about what are the technologies that mean we can accelerate getting back to live conferences in a country that now leads the world because it's actually the safest place to come," he said.

Tourism New Zealand domestic & business events general manager Bjoern Spreitzer said Aotearoa remained in hot demand but it would take time for people to return.

"Even as borders open ... it will be a slower and staggered recovery and I think with new variants coming online, or if you talk to friends, families in Europe or in Asia, it's just going to be stop, go, stop. But it's going to get better."

His team was already fielding questions about health and safety.

It was vital for New Zealand not to fall out of sight and out of mind on the international events market, he said.

Business Events Industry Aotearoa chief executive Lisa Hopkins had a few predictions for when the new normal might be in store - if borders reopened without isolation.

"We are going to see a recovery for us to pre-Covid times around about 2024 and potentially move past those numbers in 2025."

It was time to start thinking about how ready they were to welcome back their guests, she said.

"Really exciting to see that Te Pae Christchurch will be opening up. That's going to be a fantastic and a really important part of the three big convention centres that are being built and ... the investment in the infrastructure that has been put into our sector and New Zealand

Christchurch's new convention centre Te Pae would officially opened next week.

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