Queenstown conference centre key for Government

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Queenstown’s planned conference centre has already been earmarked by Government as a key tool for attracting more big-bucks visitors.

Announcing an additional $158 million investment in tourism in the 2013 budget, Prime Minister John Key – also the Tourism Minister - highlighted the centre’s potential.

“We will spend $34m over four years to significantly expand our focus on international business events, including conferences, conventions and exhibitions,” Key says.

“Conference and convention visitors are particularly valuable as they spend $318 per day on average, compared to $208 for the average tourist.

“New convention centres in Christchurch and Queenstown, and the proposed New Zealand International Conference Centre in Auckland, will allow New Zealand to host more, and significantly larger conferences.”

The new funding of $7m per year will increase to $10m by 2015 to ensure conference organisers are made aware of this increased capacity.

Queenstown Lakes District Council announced in February it had selected a heavyweight eight-party consortium to develop a 750-800-delegate centre.

The $50 million “world-class” centre will be developed by major property players Ngai Tahu Property and Morrison & Co PIP Fund – and operated by Auckland-based SkyCity Entertainment Group, the announcement said.

The council has also adopted a preferred site – council-owned Lakeview land, off Man Street on the edge of Queenstown’s CBD.

Mayor Vanessa van Uden hopes the centre will open its doors in two years, ahead of the larger proposed complexes in Auckland and Christchurch.

Key also announced $20m to attract very high-value visitors. Over the past decade, visitor numbers have increased but spend per visitor has fallen.

“We will spend $20m over four years to target very high-value visitors who spend far in excess of the average tourist,” Key says.

“These visitors use luxury accommodation, private transport, bespoke activity providers and high-end tours.

“Investment in this very high-value niche will require a tailored marketing approach. The new funding will allow Tourism New Zealand to work with premium New Zealand tourism operators to ensure this niche is developed to its full potential.”