Think bigger on Queenstown convention centre

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A Queenstown convention centre with capacity for 750 wouldn’t be able to host tourism’s annual pow-wow.

The Tourism Industry Association issues the warning in its conference centre submission to Queenstown Lakes District Council.

TIA, which includes 132 local members, advises against limiting capacity to 750, as proposed.

Queenstown successfully hosted the big annual Tourism Rendezvous New Zealand (Trenz) tradeshow in 2011 and last year, but had to add a marquee to the Events Centre at Frankton.

“The convention centre must have room to expand to 1000-1200 people in the future,” TIA says. “Council should not limit the scale to a capacity of 750 which would still not be big enough to accommodate Trenz or any of [TIA’s] key networking events.”

TIA’s also concerned a 750-capacity centre could compete with hotels for existing convention space – TIA includes 22 local hotels offering 3100 rooms.

“It’s important the convention centre be built to a scale that enhances the Queenstown product offering rather than competes.”

The submission cites comment from one large hotel chain that Queenstown’s turned away as many as 40 medium-scale conferences in 12 to 18 months.

“This has not been due to unsuccessful bidding but the inability to be able to offer a facility large enough for the core conference business.”

In a Q&A on council’s website, a response to why the proposed centre will be limited to 750 people says: “The recommendation was between 750-1000 which should be right for the community and demand. The average size of a convention centre is 600. If it’s built bigger, it’ll cost more. The facility can expand over time if it needs to.”

Council boss Adam Feeley told Mountain Scene last month the proposal will have two main buildings catering for up to 1500 across different functions.

TIA reiterates benefits conferences would bring.

Delegates spend an average $318 a night, compared to $208 from the average international leisure visitor.

Many delegates tack on days before or after a conference, while others return for a holiday with their family.

Beneficiaries are wider than tourism businesses, including retailers, taxi drivers and supermarkets.

Most importantly, it’d smooth out Queenstown’s seasonal troughs, TIA says.

“Convention, conference and event business is not materially constrained by seasonality,” the submission adds.