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ChristchurchNZ Virtual Famil

Ten leading Australian conference organisers and Association executives were whisked to Ōtautahi Christchurch for an immersive, virtual experience.

ChristchurchNZ Virtual Famil

With on-location famils off the table for a while, ChristchurchNZ Convention Bureau called on local talent and innovative technology to respond to the COVID-19 challenge.

Earlier this month they hosted a virtual famil, crystallising the Christchurch experience into an hour-long journey for Australian event organisers.

Taking Christchurch trans-Tasman

The Bureau partnered with Tourism New Zealand’s Australia team, plus Te Pae Christchurch Convention Centre and a host of city and Canterbury-wide operators to bring the heart of the South Island to Australian decision-makers.

Leveraging Christchurch’s reputation for innovation, the team used cutting-edge technology combined with the region’s renowned hosting skills to create a virtual famil with an intimate feel. They partnered with The Virtual Famil company to deliver a complete immersive experience.

Why Ōtautahi Christchurch?

Christchurch is an epic business events destination. With the opening of Te Pae Christchurch next year, New Zealand’s newest city has something for everyone with modern venues and thousands of new hotel rooms all within a compact, walkable riverfront CBD.

ChristchurchNZ Convention Bureau Manager, Claire Hector-Taylor, who was host for the event, says it was an exciting opportunity to project forward and prepare for the time borders re-open.

“This was a valuable chance for our guests to learn more about Christchurch and Canterbury, to help in their future decision-making. Here in Christchurch we embrace change, and we thrive on challenging situations. Our message is whatever your event, we are ready to host you.”

The virtual experience in Riverside Kitchen

Broadcast live from the cooking school at Riverside Kitchen, 10 Australian professional conference organisers and association executives took part from their own kitchens – or offices.

The day before, each participant was delivered a virtual experience kit via the Tourism New Zealand team in Sydney. Featuring products grown and made in the city to tie in with their journey around Christchurch, this box of goodies gave guests a real connection to Christchurch and a tangible taste of what to expect.

Participants received a virtual experience kit featuring local products 

Helen Bambry, Tourism New Zealand said: “Famils are absolutely essential in our industry, for business events organisers and their clients to experience the destination, its facilities, its people, and its culture first-hand. This famil was a fabulous way to connect our Australian clients with Ōtautahi Christchurch in a meaningful and useful way.”

The virtual Welcome

The ChristchurchNZ Virtual Famil experience started with a pōwhiri from Ko Tāne, a cultural ceremony of greeting, and a true sense of Aotearoa New Zealand’s manaakitanga, its warm welcome and generous hospitality.

Scott Callaway from Christchurch International Airport then welcomed the group with a virtual meet and greet at the city’s stunning modern airport, located less than 20 minutes from the city centre.

Highlights tour

The group was taken on an inspirational journey to explore some of the key highlights of the city and region, and giving them a feel for the real city.

“Ōtautahi Christchurch is New Zealand’s newest city and is a transforming and future focused city. We have a revamped urban centre with a vibrant mix of old and new. We have brand new conference facilities, hotels, retail, hospitality and entertainment. And on the doorstep a huge backyard for activity with mountains, ocean, lakes and rivers,” said Claire Hector-Taylor, Convention Bureau Manager.

Christchurch is an extremely accessible city and a useful on-screen map pinpointed some of the key venues, hotels, and places of interest. The group looked at the city’s top hotels and were then welcomed into the beautifully restored Christchurch Town Hall, currently the city’s largest conference and performance venue.

They were shown through The Tannery, a restored Victorian gem and a real destination in its own right. Just 10 minutes from the city centre, this versatile retail and hospitality space has amazing options for conferences and events of all sizes.

Te Pae Christchurch

Te Pae, Christchurch’s brand new venue to be opened in 2021, was debuted to guests via video link and fly-through modelling. The stunning 1,400 seat auditorium, three square-kilometre exhibition space and 1,000 seat banquet hall is set in the heart of central Christchurch on the riverfront, close to the city’s lively hospitality and retail precincts. It is a game-changer for Christchurch and guests were wowed by this world-class facility.

Deep knowledge pool

The group were given a glimpse into Christchurch’s sectors of expertise and wide knowledge pool. They learned about the city’s Supernodes initiative, aimed at future-proofing the city’s economy and creating high-value jobs. Aerospace, innovative transport, health tech, and the future of food are all areas of expertise for the region. Plus the city has four world-class tertiary institutes, leading the way in engineering, earth sciences, agritech and medicine.

Awesome South Island experiences

Guests were then taken on a deep dive into the huge range of attractions and activities for delegates to enjoy during their stay and for pre and post-touring programmes. They saw how easy it is explore the wider region, as Christchurch is located right in the heart of the South Island.

With loads of amazing operators in Christchurch all eager to showcase, guests were given a feel for some iconic local experiences, including Christchurch Attractions’ heritage trams and punting.

Just an hour outside of the city, the region has an amazing set of experiences for visitors, and they heard from local operators with many stories to share.

Claire Hector-Taylor: “Whether you want to take to the sea, the air or go by land, there really is something for everyone in this South Island paradise. Via video, we treated our guests to vignettes of wildlife cruising around Banks Peninsula with Black Cat Cruises, soaring across the plains with Ballooning Canterbury, and magical snow and river experiences aboard GCH Aviation’s state-of-the-art helicopters, and Alpine Jet Thrills.”

Cooking lessons live from Riverside Kitchen

Christchurch and Canterbury is an amazing region of passionate food producers, fascinating people and cultures. Riverside Market takes that and puts it all under one roof to reflect Christchurch’s rich urban fabric.

Live from Riverside Kitchen, guests were offered tantalising tastes of some of the amazing produce from Canterbury with Kirsten Fox, owner and chef.

Her cooking school, Riverside Kitchen, boasts a superb spot overlooking the Riverside Market, and it is also a function venue. The Kitchen can cater for 80 people cocktail or for 40 cooking and seated dining, and is ideal for incentive groups, evening functions and partner programmes, with MasterChef and Culinary Olympics-style options on offer. For larger groups of as many as 1,000, the entire top floor of the market can be transformed, working with other vendors to open up the flexible spaces. They can also offer market tours, and craft beer tasting.

Kirsten helped select the local ingredients from the market for each experience box, so guests could have a taste of Christchurch in their own homes. Recipes were also delivered to guests.
Featured in the box was local award winning North Canterbury wine from Greystone winery, which is one of the preferred suppliers with Te Pae.

What they said

David Dymmott CC Conferences & Corporate Events

“It was great to have an in depth look at both the region and the venues and hotels. Particularly interesting to see the walk-through of Te Pae and I was grateful for the map and surrounds to get my 'bearings'. The famil certainly helped with my future planning of events for the region.

Alexis Linton The MHS Learning Network Inc

“The Christchurch virtual famil was an incredibly novel and creative way of promoting the city and region. Having a gift pack delivered the day prior with produce from Christchurch, and then folding this into the virtual famil by way of a cooking demonstration was excellent. The blend of live broadcast, live Q&A, mixed in with some pre-recoded supplier promos provided a great mix of content, and kept it engaging. It definitely whet my appetite for Christchurch as a destination and gave me confidence in its capability to hold large conference. I look forward to visiting in person one day!”

Alexis Linton (left) and Samantha Kent from TNZ (right).