Conferences generate off-peak benefits for Christchurch

Conferences generate off-peak benefits for Christchurch

With Christchurch set to host a series of high-profile international conferences back-to-back, May is shaping up to be high-paced for many local businesses in what is traditionally a quiet, off-peak tourism month.

Te Pae Christchurch Convention Centre is hosting 8,255 delegates in May, with 2,650 of them international visitors for events as diverse as the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons Annual Scientific Congress 2024, the Institute of Directors NZ Conference, and the MotorSport NZ Conference.

The economic and social benefits that flow into the local community from these events are highly valuable. Te Pae Christchurch alone works with 222 suppliers from the Canterbury region and 85 per cent of its purchases are from local suppliers. In 2023, Te Pae Christchurch staged 240 conferences and events and over 94,000 delegates who consumed 2.2 tonnes of locally grown broccoli, 1.4 tonnes of salmon, 3.4 tonnes of lamb, two tonnes of apples, 3,500 cucumbers, and 3,700 loaves of bread.

Venues Ōtautahi, managers of Christchurch Town Hall and Wolfbrook Arena, will welcome almost 29,000 people through its doors for 22 business-related events in May. These range from large public exhibitions like the Careers Expo and the New Zealand Motorhome, Caravan and Leisure Show, to conferences and meetings including the Tactical Medicine New Zealand conference, and the Carbon and Energy Professionals conference.

Christchurch is home to a wide pool of talented service providers ready to collaborate to deliver world class business events. They range from exceptional professional conference organisers and meeting planners, award-winning floral designers to technical suppliers, event production and logistics companies, caterers and attractions who all benefit when a conference comes to town.

ChristchurchNZ Head of Business Events Megan Crum says conferences, meetings and exhibitions generate significant economic activity for Christchurch. “They facilitate the exchange of ideas and products, and create new networks that, in turn, stimulate trade and investment, attract talent, foster innovation, and improve productivity for our region.”

Conferencing is often counter-cyclical to leisure tourism and seasonality which means March to November are the high months of activity, sustaining local businesses throughout the year.

This is reflected in the city’s impressively full hotel rooms during this off season. Global
accommodation benchmarking company STR data published in Tourism Ticker shows that in comparison to 2-8 April 2023, Christchurch recorded an occupancy rise of 14.5% to 70.6% for the week of 31 March – 6 April 2024.

All of the country’s major hotel markets have been sliding since the summer peak, as expected, but only Christchurch and Queenstown have consistently tracked above the same period last year. Reinier Eulink, General Manager of Crowne Plaza Christchurch, the city’s largest hotel and located next to Te Pae Christchurch, says the hotel’s occupancy levels during these shoulder months are now well supported by domestic and international business events taking place.

“With the convention centre open, we now see certain weeks in April and May performing as strongly as our peak summer periods used to. From what we see first-hand, these new conference visitors also spend their time outside the hotel experiencing the city’s shops, cafes, restaurants and bars.”

General Manager of Accor Hotels (which has five hotels in Christchurch) Bradley Conder says, “The opening of Te Pae Christchurch has led to a more consistent level of demand over the year, addressing our winter periods with obvious flow-on effects to even out the boom-and-bust cycle of years past and drive confidence for the market to increase investment into the city. As well as the economic boost, conferences bring social, cultural and environmental benefits to the city too.”

Ms Crum says, “Christchurch is proving to be a living classroom for conference goers, with a wealth of expertise and experience to share in sectors like agri-tech, health-tech, aerospace and geotechnical with international researchers and practitioners in these fields. When a conference comes to Christchurch, it brings global leaders in that field into our community.

For example, Christchurch recently became the major seed trading hub for the Asia Pacific region when it hosted the 28th Asian Seed Congress at Te Pae Christchurch Convention Centre. The event attracted 1,100 people from more than 45 countries to meet and trade seeds and discuss the future development of the industry.”

New Zealand Grain and Seed Trade Association (NZGSTA) President Charlotte Connoley says Christchurch was the perfect location for the Asian Seed Congress. “We are confident that business has been written that otherwise wouldn’t have had the location been elsewhere and the economic benefits will be seen next season in particular. This opportunity for delegates to meet in person to do business and to experience the seed industry first-hand in this region will have a positive and lasting impact on the New Zealand seed industry for years to come.”


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