Leonie Ashford, business events bid manager for Tourism New Zealand, says conferencing in Asia Pacific is growing and New Zealand needs to be a part of it.
She explains that while Europe has been the ‘powerhouse’ for international association conferencing, the Asia Pacific region (excluding China) is on the rise.
‘It grew from 1800 in 2007 to 2750 in 2016, meanwhile North American is in a slight decline. We are feeling very confident that it’s on the rise and we at Tourism New Zealand feel that New Zealand needs to be a part of that.’
Ashford says Tourism New Zealand firmly believes there are opportunities on its doorstep.
‘Our colleagues across Asia find us easy to deal with; they enjoy coming to New Zealand and enjoy working with New Zealanders. We are focused on the Asia Pacific and focus on working with Asian associations.
‘Our job is to ensure association groupings and conferencing have a good understanding of New Zealand’s capability of bringing their conferences here,’ she explains.
Do you even have hotels?
Ashford says a lot of time is spent promoting New Zealand in the international space.
‘We still have people around the world asking if we have hotels. How do you get here, how long does it take? So a lot of the time it’s a really basic promotion of New Zealand. Lucky for us, we are on everyone’s bucket list, and we leverage the 100% Pure campaign because people do want to come here. Give them a conference and they will come.’
She says bidding for an international conference is very much a ‘long-term piece’.
‘We are currently pitching for conferences for 2026. We are competing globally for events that far out,’ she explained
‘Money talks, but it doesn’t always win.’
Ashford explains that New Zealand is in a different position than some other countries when bidding for international conferences.
‘We compete in an arena with other countries that have very deep pockets when it comes to paying for conferences. For example, in Singapore the government can cover a huge percentage of costs.
‘It’s an arena where money talks, but it doesn’t always win. We support the bidding process but we don’t buy the conference. Why we win is because we have the expertise, and we work with those people to bring the conference to New Zealand. The knowledge and expertise will win over the money a lot of the time.’