Auckland, set to open in 2018 with three
restaurants and bars, event spaces and a spa.
Set on Auckland Harbour, the hotel will be
part of a major revitalization of the area.
Other new hotels for Auckland include the
Sofitel So, a luxury property housed in the
historic New Zealand Reserve Bank building
and expected to open by the end of the year
with 133 guest rooms, a rooftop restaurant
and a spa located in the former bank vault.
“The hotel will be located near the waterfront in the Britomart district, which has a lot
of new restaurants and bars as well as high-end shopping and boutiques,” Bennett said.
“It’s becoming a great little hub.”
Also on the horizon is a new convention
center to be located in the SkyCity Auckland
complex, which also includes event venues,
restaurants and two hotels. Set to open in
2019, the center will be able to host groups
of just under 3,000 people. At the same time,
a new five-star hotel is expected to open in
support of the center.
“This will be our largest convention center
and will open up new opportunities for us—
right now we’re limited to conferences of up
to 2,000 people,” Bennett said. “Now we’ll be
able to target larger groups, including those
from international destinations.”
Located on the southern edge of the North
Island and named by Lonely Planet as “the
coolest little capital city in the world,” Wellington is also ramping up its infrastructure
for tourism and meetings. Last August saw
the opening of the Sofitel Wellington, a 129-
room hotel with three meeting rooms and a
botanical theme that reflects its location next
to the Botanical Gardens.
Among Wellington’s top attractions and
event venues is the Weta Workshop, a film
design studio with a creative portfolio that
includes The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit
trilogies as well as Avatar, District 9, King
Kong and The Chronicles of Narnia. Groups
can take a guided tour of the studio, which is
filled with authentic film props, and see work
being done through a series of windows.
The South Island’s largest city, Christchurch
is making a rapid recovery since suffering
damage from two earthquakes in 2010 and
2011. Along with several new hotel openings,
the city is set to regain its status as a business
hub when the new Christchurch Convention
and Exhibition Centre opens in late 2019,
according to Vic Allen, chief executive of
Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism.
“Already we have significant interest in
larger conferences wanting to come back to
Christchurch,” Allen said of the new facility,
which will be able to accommodate up to two
700-person conferences at the same time.
With the city expecting to see a further
influx of new hotels in support of the new
convention center, recent openings include
the 264-room BreakFree on Cashel, featuring
a conference room for meetings. Set to open
next year across from the new convention
center, the Crowne Plaza Christchurch will
offer 195 guest rooms, two restaurants, meet-
ing facilities and a fitness center.
Set on the shores of the South Island’s Lake
Wakapitu, Queenstown is a major hub for
incentive groups exploring the South Alps,
historic mining towns and vineyards. According to Bennett, the city, which is undergoing
a tourism boom, is poised to see a significant
increase in its meetings infrastructure.
“A lot of things are in the talking stages, but
nothing has been officially announced yet,”
she said. “There’s talk of a Ritz-Carlton as well
as a major events center that would include
hotels, restaurants and bars. There may also
be a gondola going from the events center
right up to the ski fields.”
Among the new offerings for groups is Sip
and Zip, a collaboration between Appellation
Central Wine Tours and AJ Hackett Bungy that
offers a visit to a vineyard and a zipline ride.
TOURISM NEW ZEALAND
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Incentive groups, which comprise the bulk of MICE business coming to New Zealand from North America, have a wide variety of experiences to choose from, according to Alexa Bennett, business events manger for Tourism New Zealand in Los Angeles. The most popular hubs for
incentive groups are Auckland and Queenstown, with groups dividing their time between the two.
“Most groups spend the first two nights of the incentive in Auckland, which is a beautiful city
on the North Island where you can do America’s Cup-style racing, go across to the islands and get
a great urban harbor experience,” she said. “After that, most groups pop down to Queenstown,
which is a very different landscape offering a true alpine resort experience. You can easily be there
for four days, jet boating, bungee jumping, taking scenic helicopter tours and enjoying fantastic
food and wine.”
Among the many themes available for incentive programs are those focusing on New Zealand’s
reputation as a food and wine destination.
“Our culinary scene is quite exciting—a lot of people are surprised at the sophistication of what
is offered in New Zealand,” Bennett said. “What makes it stand out is that everything truly is farm-
to-table. The freshness is really noticeable. And we’re known for our seafood as well as lamb and
dairy products. Plus, there’s a strong culinary scene to make the most of it.”
With over 500 wineries nationwide, incentive programs can feature winery visits almost any-
where in the country. Outside of Auckland, the wine regions of Waiheke Island, Matakana and
Kumeu are known for cabernet sauvignon, merlot and chardonnay, while Nelson and Marlbor-
ough are known for producing some of the world’s best sauvignon blanc. Near Queenstown, the
Central Otago Valley is equally known for its dozens of vineyards producing pinot noir.
For culinary activities, groups can enjoy one-day cooking demonstrations with a focus on local
produce at the Akaroa Cooking School ( www.akaroacooking.co.nz) in Christchurch. Other options
include learning to prepare seafood items at the Auckland Seafood School (aucklandseafood
school.co.nz ) and sampling Wellington’s best eateries during a walking tour hosted by Zest Food
Tours ( www.zestfoodtours.co.nz).
Incentive programs can also include a focus on Maori culture, with experiences that include dining under the stars against a backdrop of geysers and steam vents at the Te Puia Maori Arts and
Crafts School ( www.tepuia.com) in Rotorua or getting to know local people on an overnight stay at
one of the Maori meeting houses on the East Cape.
An impressive way to offer an introduction to Maori culture is by holding an opening night
reception at the Auckland War Memorial Museum ( www.aucklandmuseum.com), Bennett said.
“It’s great for a gala dinner and there’s a dome at the top of the museum with amazing 360-de-
gree views,” she said. “There’s a lot of cultural exhibits, plus you can get a Maori cultural group to
do a traditional haka dance performance.”