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Kiwis looking for connection – face to face meetings valued more than ever

December 4, 2020 MICE No Comments Email Email

COVID-19 has increased the value New Zealanders put on face to face meetings according to new research conducted in the Business Events sector for Tourism New Zealand.

The survey of 125 New Zealand-based organisations found that 97% are planning to hold a business event in 2021 – up from 94% of respondents to a survey conducted in May 2020.

Tourism New Zealand Global Manager Business Events, Lisa Gardiner, says: “We used to take meeting in person for granted and when we weren’t able to, we realised the value of face to face. This is reflected in the increasing number of people planning to hold an event in 2021.”

The appetite for meeting is coupled with an increasingly positive attitude towards business events: 92% consider in-person conferences and offsite meetings important for their organisation, up from 79% of respondents in the May 2020 survey; and more than half (56%) said they appreciate the importance of face to face meetings more now than pre-Covid-19, up from 39% in May.

 Reduced event budgets will remain a barrier to having larger and more frequent events in 2021. However, some organisations are feeling more optimistic than in May 2020, expecting Covid-19 to have less negative impact on their budgets than previously.

 Only 23% of charities and not for profits (NPS) expect their budgets to reduce, compared to 56% in May; and 32% of associations expect their delegate numbers to reduce, compared to 49% in May. Conversely, two-thirds of corporate respondents expect a reduction in their events budget, up from 53% in May.

Despite positive intentions in planning events, however, uncertainty about how the Covid-19 pandemic will evolve means that only 57% of respondents are confident that their event will go ahead as planned.

Nearly half (45%) said that Covid-19 had affected what they look for in a destination for meetings and conferences. Those surveyed said social distancing, greater flexibility with changes and cancellations, and providing tech solutions are now more important in their decision making.

Gardiner says: “The cautious approach to meeting face to face will require our venues and suppliers to ensure they are providing a safe environment.”

Industry can play a part in driving best practice health standards and sharing the message that events are safe to attend if run properly, with adherence to New Zealand’s Events Sector Voluntary Code.

While the majority of the events planned for 2021 will be in-person, hybrid events are also in demand – though there is very little interest in fully online events.  Respondents said 65% of their events planned for 2021 are in person only; 43% hybrid, and only 16% virtual only.

Although 82% said they would consider hosting a hybrid or fully virtual conference in 2021, lack of networking opportunities was deemed the most important barrier to adopting a hybrid format, as well as hybrid events being ‘less engaging’.

Gardiner adds: “While this research suggests technology is unlikely to fully replace the need for in-person conferences, our industry has room to improve to meet the growing demand for hybrid events, ensuring high-quality technical delivery and increasing engagement at multi-platform events.”

Tourism New Zealand is supporting the industry in upskilling to meet this demand, funding scholarships for 10 events professionals to earn PCMA’s Digital Event Strategist Certification. The online course teaches how to design, deliver, monetise and measure effective and highly interactive online events.

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