Tauranga's conference sector has huge potential with massive spinoffs for the economy but the city is being held back by a lack of accommodation, local leaders say.

Ervin McSweeney from Bay Venues and ASB Baypark said the Baypark arena had missed out on two major conferences because of a lack of accommodation.

''In the last six months, we missed out on two significant conferences where the final decision was made on the accommodation available.''

''We were the preferred venue and destination each time''.


''It is always the air travel capacity and accommodation that holds the city and region back. We work around it as much as possible.''

Some of the big conferences for 2017 included the Zespri Momentum Conference in March, Horticulture NZ in July and the Aspire Kindergarten Conference in October.

Armitage Hotel manager Nicolas Caffardo said they were refurbishing their conference spaces and were looking to grow the market.

''Other people have said they have missed out on big conferences due to lack of accommodation.''

Trinity Wharf Sales and Marketing director Michelle Morland said without a doubt there was a significant opportunity for growth with few venues in the region operating at full capacity.

But with new venues proposed in Auckland, Rotorua and Christchurch for late 2018-2019, competition for the conference market would continue to strengthen.

''It is definitely a tourism market worth pursuing - particularly given the average spend and length of stay per event delegate is invariably higher than that generated by leisure guests.''

Priority One projects manager Annie Hill said the conference market was an untapped area for the city and wider subregion.

''It would be a huge boost to the local economy. Not only in terms of the economic impact over the duration of a conference, which usually lasts for several days with corporate expenditure on hotel rooms, hospitality and other local services, but also in terms of people enjoying experiencing our region, resulting in return visitations.

''I think the main challenge is the lack of an international hotel with attached conference facilities.''

Tourism Bay of Plenty marketing and events manager Kathrin Low said there was room for growth ''which is why some of the lead conference/business events operators are so focused on selling this region and their facilities to conference organisers throughout New Zealand and offshore".

Conference business brings high-value visitors with a $330 per spend night for versus $180 for the leisure tourist, she said.

''It's the old adage that with increased infrastructure and resource we could, and would, grow this sector. More hotels, more sales focus and resource from a convention bureau perspective and accessible, affordable travel options and the market would grow."

Horticulture New Zealand chief executive Mike Chapman said its conference with Vegetables New Zealand, Tomatoes NZ and the New Zealand Asparagus Council this month was expected to attract 400 people.

Mr Chapman said Tauranga had some great conference facilities and was in the heart of a key kiwifruit and avocado growing region.

Part of the conference programme included field trips to offer behind the scenes insights into the kiwifruit industry including research and development, growing and post-harvest of New Zealand's largest fruit export, he said.

Meanwhile, the ''conference leads into the weekend, so participants can stay on and enjoy the region as tourists".

Figures from the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment show the Bay of Plenty (which did not include Rotorua) had a 3 per cent national market share of conferences and conventions - in the year to March 2017.

The statistics revealed there were 9675 single delegate days and 23,506 multi-delegate days.