Nikki Preston

Nikki Preston is a Herald reporter based in Hamilton.

Year of action in event city

Businesses are expecting a wide range of events to bring in a mix of people and are excited Auckland is becoming more like cities such as Melbourne, London, Singapore and Vancouver, which thrive on drawcards all year round.

Musician Bruce Springsteen. Photo / AP
Musician Bruce Springsteen. Photo / AP

Aucklanders can expect almost $50 million to be spent in the city over the next 15 months from large events as it cements itself as an events city and draws in hundreds of thousands of visitors.

The Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (Ateed) agency is already involved in some of the biggest events to be held before the end of next summer - which has city businesses excited after a big weekend in Auckland when crowds flooded the city for the Eminem concert, the NRL Auckland Nines and the Lantern Festival.

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Ateed is still finalising the 2014-15 calendar but has confirmed the Cricket World Cup, NRL Auckland Nines, Volvo Ocean Race Auckland stopover, V8 Supercars Auckland and Fifa U20 World Cup will be highlights. These five events alone are expected to bring in 228,700 visitors and be worth $41.73 million to the economy.

Ateed chief executive Brett O'Riley said it had successfully hosted international events such as the Rugby World Cup and given international events such as the V8 Supercars, Ironman 70.3 and the ITU Triathlon an Auckland flavour.

It was now looking at developing its own "uniquely Auckland" events.

"What we saw on the weekend was the first of our homegrown events ... and we are looking towards more of those sorts of events. Increasingly it's the cities that develop events that are truly unique to that city, a bit like the Australian Open in Melbourne, that lift you to the next step."

Ateed was already working on a signature Maori event but Mr O'Riley said the agency would develop events across sport, arts and culture.

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City businesses are also expecting a wide range of events over the coming years to bring in a mix of people and are excited Auckland is becoming more like cities such as Melbourne, London, Singapore, Dubai and Vancouver, which thrive on drawcards all year round.

During 2013-14, Ateed sponsored 36 events and a similar number are expected next year.

The hospitality, accommodation and business sectors believe Ateed's $12.32 million investment to bring the big events during 2013-14 to the city has more than paid off.

Heart of the City chief executive Alex Swney said Auckland's events calendar had grown healthily.

"There is no question the Auckland events calendar is twice what it was three years ago and significantly better than any other city or town in New Zealand."

The rise in events had a direct effect on footfall in the CBD and helped to contribute to Auckland's reputation of being an "always on" events city, Mr Swney said.

"So the medium- and long-term impact, the cumulative impact of being known as an event city, has a slower burn and a longer-term benefit."

Mr Swney said Ateed now needed to look at filling in the gaps in the calendar during winter, which he suggested could be done through attracting large international conferences with 3000-plus people.

The CBD's business association found concerts at Vector Arena and live stage shows such as Mary Poppins and Wicked were often more beneficial to them than sports events as they attracted almost as many out-of-towners as Aucklanders.

Hospitality NZ president Kevin Schwass said the city's big events were becoming the norm. "And we are getting the feeling a bit like Melbourne - we are able to employ more people, we are obviously able to generate [more income] for the city and it's all good stuff."

Mr Schwass, who owns Blankenberge Belgian Beer Cafe, Florrie McGreal's Irish Pub and BinBin Deluxe in Takapuna, said improved public transport meant visitors were not just staying and dining in the city but also travelling to the suburbs.

"I don't hear as much now of premises struggling as they did in the past. There's some genuine vibrancy that is there now. It's not so much all directed downtown."

Motel Association Auckland branch president Pat Taylor said all its members' motels were fully booked last weekend and rooms were filling fast for the V8s in April.

"We like anything that makes things happen in Auckland. We provide accommodation for people to enable them to come into those events so it's a win-win situation," Mr Taylor said.

"I think it's important we do want to differentiate Auckland and we share the vision of making Auckland the world's most liveable city and part of that is being an exciting place where people want to come to."

Explore New Zealand chief executive Kit Nixon, whose company provides sailings and cruises from the Viaduct, said there had been a definite increase in people coming into the central city in the past couple of years.

"It's very easy to track when there is a major event that brings people from out of town and the weather is right - there is a spike in activity."

Mr Nixon said it was up to operators to market their product well to visitors, who were often looking to experience other activities.

* To preview the 10 Days of Fashion in the City event, go to: tinyurl.com/10daysfashion.

- NZ Herald

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