People come first as more Kiwi firms eye Australia as a business incentive destination.

Time spent in Australia by high performing New Zealand workers is having a positive spin-off – helping to develop stronger business and job-based networks.

This view comes as a major research study shows a majority of staff in both countries think technology is causing them to have less personal contact at work.

The 2016 study, by global human resources and recruitment company Randstadt, found up to 57 per cent of New Zealand workers and 62 per cent of Australians believe they have less face-to-face communication with colleagues as a result of technology, a figure well above the global average of 46 per cent.

But an Australian technology expert, Michael Walsh, believes human contact at work is important in the digital age and says incentive trips - where companies reward top-performing staff - may be one way to help overcome this problem.


Which is where Australia comes in. Figures produced by Tourism Australia show New Zealand firms are increasingly favouring the country as a place to take staff on reward trips, the number growing by 16 per cent in the last 18 months.

Walsh says trips like these give people the chance to connect and build effective relationships away from the office and email.

"These types of trips give them the chance to get away, switch off and become involved in a shared experience," he says. "There is no question incentive travel is not only about what you see and do, but the people you are with."

Walsh, recently appointed director of strategy and innovation at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (it runs more than 1000 individual events every year), spent 10 years from 2006 overseeing the technology capabilities at the centre.

Although he believes people will continue to take advantage of new innovations in technology, "ultimately nothing will replace the need for human contact".

He says the recent Dreamtime Conference in Brisbane - a Tourism Australia event held to showcase opportunities available in Australia for business incentive and reward trips - was an example of the benefits of direct human contact in the digital age.

"Video conferencing, for example, has been around for over 20 years, but it hasn't stopped people jumping on a plane and going to a conference," he says. "They can hear the same information together, be inspired and build relationships that continue after the conference is over."

Walsh expects people will work with even more dynamic online content in the future: "I expect to see better use of social media including live streaming through platforms like Facebook Live and Twitter's Periscope - and a greater use of mobile-based apps to access information and event content.

"I think we will see an increasing hybrid approach – with both technology and face-to-face contact – but it is highly unlikely technology will ever replace the need for personal contact."

The Randstadt research showed that even if workers think personal contact is in decline, they see it as important to maintain: the 2016 study showing 85 per cent of New Zealanders and 88 per cent of Australians believing face to face is the best way to interact with colleagues.

Ron Poliakine, founder of Powermat Technologies, a company that has developed wireless power platforms for corporates like General Motors and Starbucks, agrees nothing will replace human interaction.

"Being in the same room as a client, shaking hands with a colleague or simply having a coffee with a potential business partner gives you an accurate understanding of a social situation without having to guess what is meant through digital correspondence," he says.

"Yes, technology is important, but there is a need for balance; the notion digital interactions are better may be an illusion.

"For a business to succeed we can rely on technology for efficiency, but certainly not to give us human traits such as trust, honesty and integrity – these are only present through human interaction."

The Dreamtime conference - attended by hundreds of delegates from around the world including a number from New Zealand - was held to showcase the opportunities and experiences in "events tourism" available in Australia.

Qualified business buyers were able to connect with event and destination operators and experience events ranging from new-world dining, to digital art, to private diving on the Great Barrier Reef.

Tourism Australia managing director, John O'Sullivan, says Dreamtime is held every two years and is the perfect opportunity to enhance the understanding of Australia's business events capabilities with incentive planners and key decision makers.

The number of New Zealanders going to Australia each year on business is around 200,000, a growing proportion of whom are doing so as part of business incentives arranged by their employers.