Event boss calls for conference centre urgency

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A major event organiser warns he won’t bring a lucrative trade show back to Queenstown unless a conference centre is built. 

Australian-based Rod Hearps helped bring a large education fair to the resort last week and says Queenstown will miss out on major economic benefits if a conference facility isn’t fast-tracked. 

His Australia New Zealand Agent Workshop (ANZA) brought about 500 agents and exhibitors from around the globe to buy and sell international education. 

The three-day show at the Events Centre used an adjoining marquee for fancy sit-down lunches and dinners. 

“Our German-based CEO absolutely freaked out when he saw the marquee,” Hearps says. 

“We organise nine events a year around the world in five-star hotels. This event has been the most challenging for us in terms of logistics and having a split venue. 

“If we’d have had our dinner one night earlier in the marquee [when bad weather struck] it would’ve been a disaster. 

There was water coming in, walls flapping. Luckily we were having dinner up at Skyline that night. 

“For us as event organisers, that’s a big risk. We can’t afford to have one bad event – it might take us five years to recover.” 

Hearps adds: “If Queenstown has a convention centre we are more likely to come back, but without it we probably won’t. It’s a wonderful location and everyone loves the event, but it’s the risk.” 

ANZA is the education equivalent of the country’s number one tourism pow-wow Trenz – which also needed a marquee when held here last year. 

The ANZA event was supposed to be held in Christchurch but Queenstown secured it after last year’s earthquakes. 

ANZA is an annual event – held in Australia for two consecutive years followed by a year in NZ. It’ll return to NZ, next time in Auckland, in 2015. 

Hearps, who stresses the Queenstown event was very successful, says most of the education buyers – many of whom are travel agents – had never been to Queens­­­town before. 

Queenstown gets five per cent of international students who generate $2 billion each year for the national economy – 70 per cent of international students study in Auckland so for ANZA to be in Queenstown is a huge coup for the resort, Hearps says. 

“It’s a great opportunity for agents to come to a place they have never been to before. They can sit in front of parents and say ‘I’ve been to Wakatipu High’. They can sell Queenstown far more effectively. 

“Agents have told me ‘I never knew Queenstown was this great’. That’s the ultimate benefit.”