MEETINGS marks turning point for Business Events industry

COVID has seen industry need to upskill technology platforms, says BEIA CEO Lisa Hopkins.

MEETINGS 2021 has connected the best of New Zealand’s business events industry with Australia’s and New Zealand’s leading event professionals in Auckland this week.

Organised by Business Events Industry Aotearoa (BEIA), the two-day event this week brought together 150 exhibitors from 18 regions with 50 Australian and 110 New Zealand hosted buyers, and 300 local day buyers in Auckland. Close to 800 people connected, over two days on the show floor.

BEIA Chief Executive Lisa Hopkins says MEETINGS has marked a turning point for the business events industry.

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“This is an extraordinary achievement for New Zealand. A significant business event featuring international buyers in a face-to-face environment.”

“It is a reflection of the way New Zealand has managed COVID, and BEIA is excited to help facilitate this vital connection with Australian buyers looking to bring business to our shores,” Hopkins said.

Sixteen buyers who had originally planned to come from Melbourne were unable to attend due to the state-wide COVID lockdown in Victoria. Instead, they will be participating in a virtual appointment program with MEETINGS exhibitors post-event.

“COVID has changed the sector over the past 15 months. Working in partnership has never been more important. As an industry, we have had to learn to adapt.”

Events need a backup Plan B, C and D

Hopkins said MEETINGS itself is a great example of some of the things which have now become standard in today’s environment.

“For this event, we have implemented contactless registration for Hosted Buyers on arrival, thermal temperature checking, self-check in counters with QR code registration for Day Buyers — essentially a no-scan, no-entry approach. We have a triage room, wider aisles between the exhibitors, and QR codes on all coaches being used for transfers.

“COVID has expedited the need for the industry to upskill in the use of different technology platforms, systems, and devices. Events now need a Plan B, C and in some cases D.

“Our world revolves around the need to be able to deliver events in an omnichannel environment. That means it could be in person and online, fully online, on-demand, by subscription, or include other elements of event delivery. We were preparing for a hybrid event, if our Australian buyers couldn’t attend, in partnership with our technology sponsor, EventsAIR. With the Victoria situation, we have been able to turn to that back-up plan. Buyers and exhibitors will be able to engage in their pre-scheduled appointments online.

“We estimate that the Melbourne buyers were looking to place $21.5 million in business in New Zealand – that is too great an opportunity to ignore.”

She says BEIA is working with the government and Tourism Minister Stuart Nash in the collective recovery. “We have shared with the Minister that our sector isn’t looking for hand-outs. It’s looking for hand-ups, and the opportunity to continue to trade, consistently and confidently.”

Defining “gathering”

Mark Gosling, Chair of Event Venues Association of New Zealand (EVANZ) spoke at MEETINGS about their collaboration with BEIA to work with government to clarify the term ‘gathering’. EVANZ and BEIA have co-sponsored a document developed by an independent specialist outlining how events can operate in a managed and controlled environment. We come from a position of experience, knowledge, and know-how to make this work,” he says.

“There is a difference between a social gathering, such as a wedding or funeral and a professionally managed and controlled gathering, like a conference. I want to acknowledge the partnership with MBIE and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet as we navigated this, and I think we got to a good position,” Lisa Hopkins says.

“This is a great example of the willingness of the events sector to be a proactive partner, offering constructive and alternative solutions to enable the industry to continue operating safely in this COVID-19 environment.

“We are seeing a real surge in interest and understanding of this sector and a desire by regions to be actively involved. At MEETINGS, we saw the Central Otago Convention Bureau and Kaikōura regions well represented.

“First-time exhibitors who are taking a long hard look at the product and services they have and creating solutions for those who are looking for destinations that are new and different. There are plenty of first-timers on the floor.”

Next year MEETINGS will be held in Ōtautahi Christchurch at the new Te Pae Christchurch convention centre on 15 and 16 June 2022.

All images courtesy of BEIA

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