True story. One of our major corporates was holding a Brainstorming session for its senior executives in a large hotel in an offshore city. Come the morning-tea break, everyone made for the muffins and the bathrooms - leaving all their whiteboard notes in an empty room. Purely by accident, a visiting executive from another firm walked into the unlocked and unattended room.
Fortunately, the errant executive was (a) embarrassed at going into the wrong room (b) realised the compromising situation for all concerned, and rapidly retreated.
Imagine if the unwitting intruder had been less concerned with business scruples, or - worse - an industrial espionage agent?
That's why a major trend in the conference and events sector is "exclusive hire" of a venue. This offers not only privacy for the delegates to talk business in a secure setting but also offers a more collegial atmosphere for delegates to spend time together, formally and informally, to share ideas.
Shelley Eastwood, the Heritage Hotels group conference and incentive sales manager, says there has been a doubling of inquiries for exclusive hire of hotels in recent months.
"We are charting a big increase in conference groups wanting extra privacy and exclusivity for their delegates. We have seen a doubling of growth in this business at Heritage Queenstown, while Heritage Hanmer Springs and Rutherford Nelson are also seeing a sharp rise in event bookings of this nature too," she says.
Also trending: a big focus on wellness for delegates. The Heritage group has worked hard to provide healthy and nutritious fare in its menus and caters for as many as 13 special dietary requirements, Eastwood says. "We invented the Raw Breakfast Bar which is being presented around our hotel group. Heritage Auckland was also the first NZ hotel to be Vegetarian Society of NZ-accredited for a range of vegan and vegetarian items.
"We also are very strong on assisting a healthy exercise regime for our guests with many hotels having on-site health clubs, swimming pools and even tennis courts and bicycles to use in some locations."
Queenstown's airport's increased capacity has made Heritage Queenstown a top contender for events in 2016. Its Icon Room, winner of several architectural awards, can host private conferences of up to 200 delegates theatre-style and 160 for a dinner.
The hotel has uninterrupted lake and mountain views through floor-to-ceiling windows. Showstopping views are also available from the rooftop deck.
Other venues for exclusive hire include the historic Heritage Hanmer Springs in the South Island spa town and the Rutherford Hotel, Nelson, which offers modern meeting facilities for up to 700 delegates theatre-style and 500 for a banquet. It's a popular choice for large conferences where privacy and discretion is important.
Exclusive hire options are also available at Heritage's Waitakere Estate, secluded high in the Waitakere Ranges, and Marlborough Vintners Hotel.