Nose-to-Nose Meetings Surpass ‘Business As Usual’ in New Zealand

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Rotorua-Rotorua-Zorb-RotoruaThis year’s edition of New Zealand’s business events exhibition, MEETINGS, began for us with a nose-to-nose hongi (traditional Maori welcome) by Ngahi Bidois, a Maori cultural ambassador for Conventions and Incentives New Zealand (CINZ).

The greeting added a new dimension to the usual business handshake; lasting only seconds, the shared breath symbolized the opening of a door not only into Auckland’s ASB Showgrounds, but the Maori whanau (family) and way of life. Maori traditions and values created a nimbus of magic around the conference—from karakia (prayers) by Bidois that blessed the exhibition space and attendees to a fusion of culinary nuances from 19 represented regions. This is the norm for New Zealand business events: a sense of place and authenticity that “entices people to do things beyond the conferences they are here for,” explains Tourism New Zealand’s Director of Trade and Major Events, Rene de Monchy. It’s also a hub for global creativity, which de Munchy says contributes to the “Kiwi-ness” that has drawn 66,000 international congress delegates over the past four months. Here are a few experiences for channeling your group’s inner Kiwi.

Crossing the Threshold in Auckland

The magic will most likely begin for groups in Auckland, the gateway of 70 percent of all international arrivals. Here, groups can sail former America’s Cup racing yachts with Corporate Explore, bungee jump from or take a stroll around the outdoor walkway of SkyCity Auckland’s SkyTower, the tallest man-made structure in New Zealand at more than 1,000 feet. SkyTower’s orbiting restaurant—a hot spot for intimate cocktail receptions—will unveil an aesthetic refresh this fall. Groups can also hop on a ferry to experience the wineries on nearby Waiheke Island.

“[Attendees] come for our uniqueness, our beauty, and leave talking about the people every time.”

Rotorua Adventures

South of Auckland in Rotorua, rustic venues like the Agrodome mark the spot for hyperlocal team building—sheep herding to off-roading farm tours—along the edge Lake Rotorua. Corporate groups of up to 1,000 often flock to the mountaintop venues, luge track (attendees can actually luge to a meeting space surrounded by redwood forest) and wine tasting room at Skyline Rotorua via a scenic gondola ride. Hillside zorbing is all the rage at OGO Rotorua, while Agroventures offers a number of thrilling “firsts,” including a multi-person, swing-style zip line capable of reaching 80mph, and the world’s first human-powered monorail racing circuit. New Zealand’s explorable natural endowments are also plentiful, and pre- or post-event excursions to Waitomo for rafting or floating trips through the Waitomo Caves’ vast underground networks of glowworm-lit tunnels are popular choices.

Attendees Find Their Voices at Te Puia

Culturally attuned bespoke events for up to 1,000 happen at Te Puia, an architectural and cultural wonder of Maori craftsmanship and traditions located in the Te Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley. Workshops on wood, stone and bone carving, as well as ancient weaving techniques take place at the on-site New Zealand Maori Arts & Crafts Institute. Starlight tours of the valley coupled with tales of Maori mythology stories and a traditional hangi (food cooked in an earthen oven by heated rocks) of corn on the cob, rewana bread and a drink made from kawakawa extract and manuka honey are also on the agenda. It’s person-to-person experiences like these that keep New Zealand top of mind for international planners, says New Zealand’s Deputy Prime Minister and Ministry of Tourism Paula Bennett.

“[Attendees] come for our uniqueness, our beauty, and leave talking about the people every time.”

A Fresh Start in Christchurch

On the South Island, a new convention center is about to become a dream come true for Christchurch. The $240 million development, part of a bigger $14 billion re-build of the city, will anchor the Central Business District, ushering regional and international conventions back into the area. “We were given a completely fresh canvas,” explains Rob McIntyre, general manager of the new Christchurch Convention Centre. “The large site freed us from the constraints that other venues face.” McIntyre hopes the 2,000-pax center’s purpose-built spaces and eye toward sustainability will remind planners of the city’s value as the gateway to the South Island when it opens in 2020.

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