Grant Bradley

Aviation, tourism and energy writer for the Business Herald

Big push to boost events industry

Agency aims for more delegates to near double sector’s annual value to $430m and tackle tourism seasonality.

One of the key priorities for Super City-funded Ateed was to remove the negative effects of seasonality. Photo / Brett Phibbs
One of the key priorities for Super City-funded Ateed was to remove the negative effects of seasonality. Photo / Brett Phibbs

More than $2 million a year will be spent to almost double the economic spinoff from Auckland's business events sector to $430 million annually in the next decade.

Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development has described the target as ambitious but says a bigger events industry will help tackle the problem of seasonality where tourist operators are not busy year round.

Ateed chief executive Brett O'Riley said the visitor industry believed it could be a game changer.

"The downside of seasonality is that it's hard for people to develop a fulltime career in a city where we're trying to deal with youth unemployment. Clearly being able to demonstrate you can get a 12-month steady job is important."

The busy visitor season lasts for around seven months from spring to autumn but weaker bookings over winter discouraged investment in tourism.

The aim is to build on this, by increasing the number of international business event delegates who arrive outside Auckland's peak tourism period from 70 per cent in 2013 to 75 per cent in 2023.

One of the key priorities for Super City-funded Ateed was to remove the negative effects of seasonality.

"The sector has made it clear to us they see it as a game changer for Auckland and a real opportunity to move from a volume discussion to a value discussion," O'Riley said.

Most conference-goers in Auckland come from within the city. Of the 198 million delegate days last year, 83 per cent were generated by Auckland residents, 13 per cent by other New Zealanders and 5 per cent by international visitors, the highest spenders.

According to Ateed figures international business visitors spend an average of $365 a night, compared with leisure travellers who spend $220 a night.

O'Riley said if Auckland got just 1 per cent more of the events held in Australia, this city's conference sector would be boosted by 10 per cent.

Under the Auckland plan resources would be increased in the key Australian market and a stronger focus put on incentive activity particularly in North America and Southeast Asia.

Ateed would put a staff member into Australia to complement the Tourism NZ presence there.

"It's feet-on-the-street acclivity. It's very analogous to winning major events."

Ateed figures show the Auckland Convention Bureau's budget for the past year was $1.7 million funded through a mixture of council funding ($1.3 million) and private sector sources ($400,000).

The plan would mean an extra $350,000 a year (on average) in additional funding would be required to implement it over 10 years.

This would be drawn from a mix of Auckland Council funding, increasing the conference bureau membership base, changing the priorities of spending allocated from the Auckland Visitor Plan, and tapping into Tourism New Zealand's conference assistance programme fund.

Ateed's total spending in the last financial year was $51.5 million.

O'Riley said the convention centre planned to open in Auckland in 2017 would open more opportunities.

The centre is being built by SkyCity in a deal that allows it to increase the number of poker machines.

"It's pretty key and the feedback that we've had is that we've lost conventions because we haven't been able to scale [up]," he said.

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- NZ Herald

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