By Ian Neubauer
New Zealand’s billion-dollar MICE sector is holding ground despite the economic downturn, with convention arrivals remaining steady and early snowfall expected to buoy incentive travel to that nation’s world-famous ski fields.
Ski resorts near Queenstown and Wanaka in New Zealand have reported up to 1 metre in the past 72 hours, the New Zealand Ski Tourism Marketing Network announced yesterday (May 20).
“It looks like mid-winter now and it’s only May,” said James Helmore, general manager of Lake Wanaka Tourism, one of the many areas to benefit from the deluge. “Having so much snow this early provides a hugely positive start to the season which helps everybody, from retailers to the ski fields themselves.”
The news follows a recent announcement by Conventions & Incentives New Zealand (CINZ) that international business tourism arrivals have seen only a 1 per cent decrease for the year ended March 30 compared to the same period last year.
“Travel and conference budgets have tightened due to the current economic climate, but conferences are still an integral part of business and are still happening, albeit it on tighter purses strings,” said CINZ chief executive, Alan Trotter. “Australia in particular is looking very strong and a market we will continue to target.”
CINZ hopes to generate new business through the creation of a new role for a business development manager in Sydney and the launch of a new Australian call centre set to open in July.
The launch will coincide with MEETINGS 2009, the industry’s annual Auckland trade and expo.
“Exhibitor space at the show is sold out and the atmosphere is very positive,” Trotter said. “It’s the prime opportunity for New Zealand operators to show corporates what they have to offer.”
Meanwhile at The Remarkables ski field near Queenstown, ski area manager Ross Lawrence is expecting the best start to the season in recent history. “These are magic conditions for this time of year so we’re all hyped up for some superb skiing and riding from opening day,” he said.