Waikato is snapping at the heels of Wellington for second place in the national competition for conferences.
If the number of conferences being held at the Claudelands Event Centre in Hamilton continues to grow at the same rate, a Government survey shows the Waikato will equal Wellington next year and eclipse it the year after.
The Convention Activity Survey showed the Waikato claimed 11 per cent of the market in Claudeland's second year of operation, 2 per cent more than its first year. In the same period Wellington's share fell 1 per cent to 14 per cent.
Next year the Waikato and Wellington could be neck and neck at 13 per cent.
Claudelands Event Centre director of business development and marketing Murray Jeffrey said the Waikato had been a "no show" in the survey three years ago and put the Waikato's growth down to "a whole lot of hard work."
"We have been selling Claudelands as a conference venue for four or five years," Mr Jeffrey said.
"When we first started no one took us too seriously ... Hamilton has not always been considered a destination. I think that's changing."
In two years Claudelands has notched up 500 events, attracting 387,000 people.
Armageddon Expo organiser Bill Geradts described Claudelands as one of the best venues he used for his events in Australasia. The expo will return to Claudelands next year.
Its biggest conference yet, the three-day Ulearn 2013 teachers' conference, finishes today.
Every room of Claudelands was being used including the Grandstand as well as Peachgrove Intermediate and Southwell School, requiring 11 busses to transfer the 1500 delegates between all of the venues.
It required 3141 chairs with 800 extra seats having to be bought in from other city council departments and Hamilton Girls High School to ensure there were enough for the delegates.
Conference organiser Gwenny Davis has been behind 40 conferences, the last two at Claudelands.
"As soon as Claudelands became available as a full-blown conference centre we were among the first to come here," she said.
"We have 35 break-out sessions and there's only two other venues in the country, Auckland and Rotorua, that can offer us that. I'm sure we'll be back here."
Hamilton and Waikato Regional Tourism Organisation chief executive Kiri Goulter confirmed Claudelands was one of the driving forces for the region's growth.
Hamilton and Waikato Tourism Convention Bureau Manager Jenny Tukiawho Stokes said the region included everything from boutique lodges to large-scale purpose-built venues such as Claudelands.
- © Fairfax NZ News