New Zealand’s biggest business event marks Matariki

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Edited by Travel Weekly

    Matariki, the Māori New Year has been celebrated at a spectacular event for MEETINGS 2024 buyers at Rotorua Airport last night (Wednesday, 19 June).

    RotoruaNZ Business Events and Coast Group presented a special dinner with supporting partners Rotorua Airport, Terrace Catering, Event Impressions and The Production Agency.

    The evening featured a stunning 12-minute light and sound show with 160 drones depicting the story of Matariki lighting up the night sky above Rotorua Airport.

    Business Events Industry Aotearoa (BEIA) Chief Executive, Lisa Hopkins said MEETINGS in Rotorua has been extraordinary.

    “What a unique opportunity to celebrate Matariki, a pivotal occasion in the New Zealand calendar that marks the Māori New Year. Our week has been filled with cultural richness, spectacular experiences, and meaningful connections,” she said.

    “Matariki symbolises new beginnings and shared hopes for the future and serves as a powerful reminder of the symbiotic bonds within our industry as a whole,” Hopkins said.

    “This MEETINGS has stood out for its breath of product, the educational opportunities, and the total immersion into Māori culture we have all experienced. The warmth of welcome – manaakitanga – from our host city Rotorua and the entire community ensured everyone attending was cared for and left with great memories.”

    Haydn Marriner, Brand and Marketing Manager at RotoruaNZ said the city’s success as a business events destination was down to its high-quality, award-winning local operators, the manaakitanga (warm welcome) of its community, and the strong, authentic delivery of cultural experiences, something which is high on every organiser’s must-have list.

    “MEETINGS 2024 is one of the first major tourism conferences for our region post-COVID, signalling a fresh era of success for the Rotorua visitor economy. Rotorua is considered a ‘hot’ destination, with the RotoruaNZ Business Events Team successfully securing $10 million over their targets for the past three years, with more year-on-year growth projected to come as a result of MEETINGS 2024.”

    Today a group attending the Māori Tourism conference in Taupo travelled to Rotorua for MEETINGS and to learn more about the sector’s opportunities for their businesses.

    Hundreds of buyers from New Zealand and Australia were hosted to Rotorua. Tourism Zealand in conjunction with local convention bureaux and partners brought 18 buyers – eight from North America, five from Southeast Asia, and three from Hong Kong – in association with Air New Zealand.

    International buyers, Traci Colangelo from Reach Meetings and Events based in Houston and Nicole Pfeifer, from The Collective by BCD M&E based in Chicago both say their North American clients see New Zealand as a bucket list incentive destination.

    Prior to MEETINGS, the two joined a Tourism New Zealand famil to Auckland, including sailing on an America’s Cup yacht, site inspections of new hotels, and a fascinating introduction into not only rugby, but also New Zealand’s culture and what makes New Zealand, New Zealand at the All Blacks Experience. After MEETINGS they head to Queenstown for three days.

    “We have been struck everywhere we have been by the consistency in the cultural experience and genuine, authentic welcome for visitors. The cultural richness has been so beautiful and we have loved the chance to pause and take everything in. The powerful pōhiri on arrival brought us to tears,” Pfeifer said.

    Australian buyers applaud deep connections

    Australian buyer, Jules Barnard from This Space says MEETING has been full of deep, rich connections. “Every vendor wants to ensure we have an incredible personal experience. In a very short time frame we have been given a sense of what they bring and how they can work with us.

    “In Rotorua I feel like I am home with family, even though I have never been here before. I know this is the experience my clients are going to get here too – it’s the X factor,” Barnard said.

    Eighty per cent of Australian buyers were new to MEETINGS this year.

    First-timer Andrea Gall, from DCC & A in Sydney who organises events for Australian and New Zealand associations and societies said attending MEETINGS has given her an edge.

    “I’ve been so impressed by the way all the suppliers collaborate. The MEETINGS education sessions and workshops have been incredibly beneficial and informative too. I can share this with the entire team on my return.

    “To be here, to see, feel, participate and experience has been enormously powerful. I am leaving feeling energised and excited about New Zealand as a business events destination,” she said.

    Engaged and ready for business

    Exhibitors have noted buyers are engaged and ready to do business. Head of Auckland Convention Bureau, Ken Periera said buyers have been fizzing about Auckland’s possibilities with so much new infrastructure, topped off by the new NZICC convention centre to open next year, and great new hotel products. “New Zealand’s largest city is a well-rounded, innovative destination and at MEETINGS we have demonstrated this on the show floor,” he said.

    ChristchurchNZ supported five of its business partners to come to MEETINGS for the first time. The destination is rapidly growing its capability within the business events sector and MEETINGS was a chance to showcase a broad range of products and services from within the region.

    Together they conducted 24 appointments across two days on the ChristchurchNZ stand. ChristchurchNZ Head of Business Events, Megan Crum said they were excited to have these awesome first-time partners establish new relationships with buyers.

    “The beauty of collaborating with suppliers is to play to each other’s strengths. MEETINGS has been a chance to build collaboration amongst new and emerging operators, creating amazing relationships,” she said.

    One of the five, Gavin Oliver, Managing Director of Ecozip Adventures said buyers are all highly engaged. “They are meeting with intent, know what they are looking for and seeking very authentic experiences. We are seeing business for the next five years coming from MEETINGS 2024,” he said.

    Many hosted buyers are heading off tomorrow on their choice of post-MEETINGS famils to Taupo, Waikato, Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

    Email the Travel Weekly team at

    MEETINGS 2024

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