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ChristchurchNZ launches city-first Business Events Strategy

As the sustainable economic development and city profile agency for Ōtautahi Christchurch, it is our role to identify and leverage opportunities to grow the city both economically and socially. Business events have a crucial part to play in achieving our four key outcomes: to bring economic value, to lift the city’s profile, to provide long-term leverage and legacy, and to reduce seasonality.

In the midst of a global pandemic, we are looking to the future. With the opening of Te Pae Christchurch Convention Centre next year, and exceptional venues and accommodation already in place, Christchurch is set to be at the forefront of business events in New Zealand.

Ōtautahi Christchurch is a vibrant, modern urban centre capable of hosting large-scale events, while giving delegates a boutique city experience with easy access to spectacular natural landscapes.

The city is recognised as a hub of expertise, with a strong business ecosystem and deep talent pool in our internationally-acclaimed tertiary institutions.

Now, more than ever, we need to be looking ahead. Business events are planned with long lead times, often the bidding process for large conferences and incentive programmes starts up to five years ahead.

The ChristchurchNZ Business Events Strategy is a three-year roadmap with bold plans for attracting and promoting the city’s business events.

Business events are the heavy lifters for the wider tourism industry – conference and incentive visitors stay longer, spend more and bring more than just economic value to our city, they have a measurable social impact too.

They tackle seasonality by bringing visitors into our city during shoulder seasons. Alongside the direct economic benefits to local and regional businesses across accommodation, dining, retail and transport – and the indirect benefits to their own suppliers – there are also social opportunities, which extend beyond the duration of each event. These include knowledge sharing and legacy impacts, which will benefit Christchurch well into the future. Related and independent industries on which the sector has a positive impact include ground transportation, hospitality, hotels and retail.

The Business Events Strategy has been shaped out of the city’s wider visitor strategy, where we identified conferences and incentives as a major driver for the sector. Our vision is for a sustainable, thriving business events industry for Christchurch. Pre-earthquakes Christchurch was booming as a business events hub, holding 24 per cent of all New Zealand multi-day conventions with a purpose-built convention centre and 3,500 hotel rooms within walking distance.

A decade later, with a transformed new city, we are looking to claim back that position. We have a focused approach to attracting high-value business events that build a strong profile for Christchurch and Canterbury, nationally and internationally, attracting visitors throughout the year, leaving a positive legacy for the community and wider region.

Part of our strategy is supporting local industry right now, with a focus on recovery and repositioning the city. To this end we are working on domestic campaigns, and we are still welcoming people here and sharing our manaakitanga either virtually or in person. Last month, we held a virtual familiarisation event for 10 leading Australian event organisers, with hugely gratifying feedback. Next week we are holding an in-person domestic famil for key North Island event organisers.

We are investing in marketing activity, ready to push the button on a campaign in Australia early next year, partnering with Te Pae Christchurch and Tourism New Zealand, so when borders open we have a pipeline of events ready to go.

The plan includes the launch of a new Advocate Programme for the city, reaching out to and acknowledging our region’s rich pool of thought leaders, who are recognised in their field and for their professional achievements, and who are passionate about promoting our region.

Christchurch is the knowledge hub of the South Island with world-class tertiary institutions, knowledge intensive businesses and public institutions. Hosting business events helps profile Christchurch’s knowledge experts and leading enterprises, leading to increased opportunities for trade and collaboration.

The focus will be to attract conferences aligned with our sector strengths and future focus areas. Certain sectors we see as real strengths for our city will provide a focus for targeting related conferences and conventions.

Through city-wide collaboration, we have identified four key areas of growth, dubbed Supernodes – sectors where the region’s future economy can grow and prosper. They are Aerospace and Future Transport, Health Tech and Resilient Communities, Food, Fibre and Agritech, and Hi-tech Services. Other sector strengths include earth science, health science, agriculture and engineering and construction technology. We have world renowned experts working in these areas, and valuable case studies for delegates to come and explore and learn from.

Finally, and most critically in this time of crisis, the strategy outlines the Christchurch Legacy Investment Fund, a framework for making investment decisions in conferences and conventions that will support the growth of the city’s economy or profile. As ChristchurchNZ moves into a new phase of maturity it will launch an annual subvention fund designed to attract global conferences to the city.

Our working partnerships are of a truly collaborative nature, and our new Business Events Strategy was created consultatively. Through a tough decade, the sector continues to work together, adapting and evolving together, coming up with new solutions and future framework.