By James Wilkinson
Sydney is poised to drop further down the list of major conference destinations in Australasia, following New Zealand Government’s $200,000 contribution to a feasibility study on the proposed 4000-seat Auckland convention centre.
The NZ Gov’t is backing a national conference centre for Auckland
New Zealand’s prime minister and minister of tourism John Key, has committed the funds to conduct a feasibility study into the development of a large international conference centre in Auckland that will cater for up to 4000 people.
“New Zealand lacks a large-scale conventions and exhibitions centre that is capable of attracting big international conferences,” he said. “As a result, we may be missing out on thousands of high-value visitors that could be interested in coming to New Zealand.
“There is no doubt that business visitors tend to be higher spenders than regular tourists and when they are here on business they often tag on a holiday as well.
“I have allocated NZD$250,000 from the New Zealand Tourism Strategy Implementation Fund to allow the Government, in conjunction with Auckland City Council, to carry out this study and a business case.
“If the recommendations from the feasibility study are positive, I expect we will prepare a detailed business case and an establishment plan to develop a large international conference centre in Auckland,” he said.
Auckland City Council has announced it will put a further NZD$20,000 towards the feasibility study and contribute NZD$30,000 for the business case.
With the opening of the MCEC in just over a month away and with Auckland taking steps to build a major new facility, Sydney could once more be left behind, with no new, large-scale convention centre on the agenda for the NSW state government.
Key realizes the importance of the gap that currently stands in the way of New Zealand winning major conferences, hence the reason for backing such a major project NZ operators have been calling for in recent years.
“The lack of a large convention centre is losing us business visitors,” Key said. “We need to do more to tap into this higher-value market and today’s announcement will kick start that objective.”
For some time, a number of leading Sydney hoteliers have been calling for an expanded or new convention centre in the city, including Four Seasons Hotel Sydney general manager Stephen Lewis.
“It is my strong belief that the addition of a larger or second convention centre is integral to the success of the hotel and tourism industry in Sydney,” he said.
“Currently, the lack of such facilities disables the city’s ability to maximize profit and compete in the global arena,” Lewis said.