New Zealand’s multi-million dollar luxury travel, conferences and group tour market has responded quickly to the opening of the trans-Tasman bubble according to an industry expert. The surge in premium event bookings and luxury travel will see one of the country’s leading boutique conference venues reach pre-Covid revenues by Q4 2021.
Tracey Poole, Hilton Taupo hotel manager, says conference enquiries at their five star property have already increased significantly since the travel bubble was opened with over 50 events now booked for the coming 12 month period and around 10% of these were confirmed since the bubble reopened – originating from a mix of Australasian businesses operating on both sides of the Tasman.
She says meeting and event demand is particularly strong from the technology sector as well as trans-Tasman automotive, fashion, and hospitality industries – with one company booking three separate conferences of over 100 attendees. “Our venue can accommodate meetings of up to 140 people and we now have several of these bookings taking us to maximum capacity already.
“The immediate response from the Australasian conference industry is driven by a desire for businesses to reconnect with staff and customers following a year of social distancing and video conferencing,” she says. Poole says the opening of the bubble has also brought a number of luxury tour operators out of hibernation. “The Australian luxury traveller is looking for premium experiences and typically spends more here than their equivalent Kiwi.
“As a result a number of group tour and activity operators are now reopening which means we are once again working with them to provide the kind of unique niche experiences that helps define New Zealand tourism for this part of the market. “One example of these is a charter helicopter tour that allows tourists to come from Auckland to Taupo where they land on a helipad, have lunch with us and then head back north.
“We have also been able to work again with a number of premium tour operators offering boating and bike tours as well as other activities available in the region including golf, jet boat rides, fly fishing, scenic tours fishing and Maori cultural experience tours – for the first time since Covid began,” she says.
Poole says based on current projections, the historic hotel which was first built in 1889, expects to return to pre-Covid revenue levels by the fourth quarter of this year. “While domestic bookings during the pandemic have been at times record setting, the revenue earned per night is significantly lower than what we would have seen pre-Covid with a mix of international tourists.
“With more Australian’s staying with us, we are seeing an increase in purchases on cuisine and premium wines as well add-ons such as mini bars, in room dining and activities organised through our concierge service. “We believe this will see us return to pre-Covid revenues before the end of the year,” she says. Poole says while the rapid growth in conference bookings and international tourists is welcome, their focus will now be on recruitment ensuring they are well resourced to manage the larger events over the coming months.