New Zealand’s Tourism Minister Stuart Nash got straight to the point yesterday at the opening of the MEETINGS 2022 convention in Christchurch, when he raised the subject of Covid and asked his audience of several hundred delegates, point blank: “How many of you have had it? Hands up!”
Over half of those present, who included over 100 buyers from Australia, immediately raised their hands. Most observers reckoned it was about 60% who acknowledged they had already caught Covid.
Nash then quipped “you’re not dead yet!”
New Zealand’s vaccination rates are over 95%; Australia’s vax rates are similar. Everyone looked healthy in the MEETINGS audience – and hardly anyone wore a mask.
Nash’s point was that business events are vital, just as global commerce is vital. The world is entering the post-pandemic era, when people manage the Covid risk prudently and learn to live with it.
Covid-19 test requirements for travellers heading for New Zealand look set to be scrapped from early next week, according to a report in the New Zealand Herald yesterday. If the report is correct, it will bring New Zealand into line with a growing number of countries, including Australia, that have done away with the irksome test requirement, making it easier for tourists and conference organisers alike.
Business Events Industry Aotearoa’s flagship, two-day exhibition, MEETINGS opened with a strong endorsement of the sector’s role in New Zealand’s economic and social success.
Nash, New Zealand’s Minister for Tourism and Economic Development, said New Zealand was a highly aspirational destination for international travellers and the country was already racking up an impressive list of bookings for international conferences.
The latest is the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS) annual Scientific Congress, to be held in May 2024 at Te Pae Christchurch Convention Centre.
The Congress is the largest meeting of surgeons and allied health professionals in the Southern Hemisphere. Over 1500 delegates, including 1300 international visitors, are expected.
Speaking at Te Pae Christchurch Convention Centre yesterday morning, Nash praised New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern as an excellent brand ambassador for the country who was well recognised internationally. (He acknowledged that she is also his boss!)
BEIA Chief Executive, Lisa Hopkins said later that Minister Nash’s speech at the official opening, and at the welcome ceremony the previous night, acknowledged the importance the government placed on the business events sector, and the vital role it has to play in New Zealand’s future success.
“The energy, resilience and optimism of our industry are truly on show today. The powerful cultural performances at our opening, and speeches of encouragement have inspired all of our guests,” she said.
MEETINGS is the first international exhibition to be held at New Zealand’s next-generation convention centre, Te Pae Christchurch. A record number of exhibitors from 18 regions across 211 stands are attending, along with over 400 buyers, including 110 from Australia.
“Over the next two days we are making the most Ōtautahi Christchurch’s compact and beautiful central city, and of Te Pae’s state-of-the art facilities. We are using all the new venue’s expansive and impressively designed spaces, including the exhibition hall, auditorium, meeting rooms, and banqueting rooms overlooking the Ōtakaro Avon River,” Hopkins said.
Tuesday night saw more than 650 people attend the cultural welcome ceremony at Christchurch Town Hall. Nash welcomed overseas guests to Aotearoa New Zealand, and they were welcomed to Ōtautahi Christchurch by Mayor Lianne Dalziel.
The opening ceremony, hosted by ChristchurchNZ, began with a moving Mihi Whakatau (welcome speech) and Kapa Haka (performance) from Ngāi Tūāhuriri to welcome all attendees to Ōtautahi Christchurch.
The grand finale was a beautiful rendition of Dave Dobbin’s “Welcome Home” performed by Stella Maris, who was wearing a Harakeke (flax) woven dress, created by Ōtautahi weavers Mihi Adams and Toni Rowe, depicting the intertwining of the city’s culture, heritage, community, and people.
Written by Peter Needham