Bring Trenz back to the Wakatipu for 2015

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With Queenstown having turned it on for the past two annual Trenz tourism pow-wows, the pressure was on Auckland last week. 

Auckland could hardly have got off to a better start when Prime Minister John Key announced a four-year $158 million extra spend-up on tourism just before the event. 

See what happens when your PM doubles as Tourism Minister. 

Auckland also had a venue that more than compared with Queenstown’s, which had consisted of the Events Centre at Frankton and a large marquee planted in its carpark. 

Rather than the hard-to-get-to Ellerslie venue it had used before, Auckland’s Trenz this time took place in a fantastic waterfront facility. 

The Cloud, first used for hospitality at the 2011 Rugby World Cup, linked arms with Shed 10, which is becoming a cruise ship terminal. 

After an average opening ceremony at the nearby Viaduct Events Centre, bizarrely featuring indoor fireworks, The Cloud and Shed 10 neatly accommodated hundreds of display stands and booths during the three-day talkfest. 

It’s a sort of speed-dating event matching New Zealand tourist operators with travel buyers from overseas. 

A loud conch – similar to those used to start RWC games in 2011 – sounded the start of 15-minute appointments. 

Queenstown operators were rather tucked away towards the rear of Shed 10. 

So tucked away that Key, during a walk through the venue, missed the Southern Lakes area altogether. 

Seems the only local operator he engaged with was Julie Jolley, whose Millbrook Resort booth was in another location. 

Still, Queenstown operators seemed to enjoy a steady stream of buyers. 

Destination Queenstown’s Lisa Nilsen and Ben Chapman, peering over laptops, seemed to engage non-stop with buyers. 

The Arrowtown Promotion and Business Association pulled off a coup by having that most persuasive of women, Kaye Parker from the Queenstown Trails Trust, in their booth along with museum director Dave Clarke. 

Trenz organiser, the Tourism Industry Association, entertained media types like me with a series of morning press conferences fronted by various worthies. 

Particularly impressive was Auckland’s gung-ho mayor Len Brown, who sounded a bit like his garrulous predecessor John Banks. 

Brown was on a panel that used Trenz to announce Auckland’s newest tourist attraction –a multi-day walk on a couple of islands. 

The panel was shut down, however, to allow Key to give his keynote address. 

Of course, as regular Trenz-goers like local Kiwi Discovery boss Tim Barke will tell you, more business is done over a beer than during the booth appointments. 

This Trenz certainly didn’t disappoint on that score. 

Apart from never-ending coffees and snacks – some delivered by Air NZ hostesses pushing trolleys – The Cloud had an excellent bar and there were a series of off-premises parties. 

Organisers of this Trenz stole an idea pioneered in Queenstown – a free activity afternoon for delegates. 

One could suggest that many of those activities lack the buzz and scenic backdrop of Queenstown’s, but that would be churlish. 

Apart from the rain – but then what do you expect? – Auckland certainly put its best foot forward. 

But it’s a pity most buyers wouldn’t have made it to Queenstown, too, to check out our world-class offerings. 

Auckland’s already been confirmed as next year’s venue. Fair enough, it’s traditional for venues to go back-to-back. 

But Queenstown would have a great claim to be the venue again in 2015 if we could open our proposed conference centre in time for it. 

Auckland’s own NZ Herald newspaper thinks we’ve already got a leg-up over that city’s planned national convention centre. 

“With the Queenstown proposal motoring ahead of the Auckland project, perhaps it might just be easier to call the Queenstown version THE national convention centre,” a columnist wrote last Friday. 

With that sort of endorsement, our backdrop and – let’s be honest about it – the cream of adventure tourism and related activities, surely we’d be an irresistible venue for Trenz 2015.