Business tourism on the up

Christchurch convention organisers are upbeat that business tourism for the city will remain on the front foot in the leadup to the planned opening of a $500 million convention centre and precinct in 2017.

The city lost nearly all its conference market after the 2011 earthquakes.

It went from New Zealand's "most preferred" conference city, having 24 per cent share of the national conference market, to only 2 per cent.

Since then it has regrown that national share to around 9 per cent.

Christchurch & Canterbury Convention Bureau (CCCB) manager Caroline Blanchfield said there had been lots of wins as the bureau and others in the conference industry geared up to put Christchurch back on the map as a major conference destination.

The announcement of a move to the master-planning stage for the $500m convention centre and surrounding precinct had seen a significant "spike" in visitors to the CCCB website, she said.

CCCB estimates more than $250 million of business was lost due to the quakes, which damaged beyond repair the centre on Kilmore St that hosted large international events.

On September 2, Christchurch would be hosting Convene South, a convention business promotion event aimed at the domestic market.

With close to 100 exhibitors, the Convene event was aimed at domestic business, for example encouraging corporates to find out more about the range of venues and services available in the Canterbury region and throughout the South Island, and to meet those that could help pull off the perfect event. The city has recently won the right to host the Environmental Criminology and Crime Analysis (ECCA) Annual Symposium in June 2015, which will see about 100 delegates visit the city.

It has also secured the right to host the 20th Pacific Association of Quantity Surveyors Congress, set to attract 400 Asia-Pacific delegates to Christchurch in 2016. Earlier this month Christchurch hosted its largest conference since 2011, welcoming the New Zealand Dental Association and more than 800 delegates, happy to shuttle to Wigram's Air Force Museum with Christchurch & Canterbury Convention Bureau contributing "a couple of thousand" towards transport costs, she said.

"(The dental conference) was probably at the limits of what we can actually handle with Wigram museum."

The biennial Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research open science meeting, now underway, was another large conference Christchurch had won.

However, with about 1000 delegates it was too much for the quake-torn city, and it had to moved to Auckland.

A subset of that conference, Comnap Secretariat, was visiting Christchurch.

Comnap is an international association bringing together Antarctic programme leaders from different countries.

Antarctica New Zealand chief executive Peter Beggs said the Comnap symposium had brought 130 attendees to Christchurch.

Stu Freeman, of organising group ProMag Publishing, said Convene South was part of a push to get local corporates "back" to Christchurch.