The easing of gathering restrictions under the Covid-19 traffic light system could kick-start the resurrection of Auckland’s CBD, the events industry believes.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Wednesday as of 11.59pm Friday, indoor gatherings can grow from a maximum of 100 to 200 people, with social distancing and mask use still required.
Hotel Council Aotearoa director James Doolan said this was a step in the right direction.
One of the main ways hotels earned revenue, according to Doolan, was through corporate events – or MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions).
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These events often ensured bookings of 50 to 100 visitors, but it wasn’t just the hotels that benefited.
“A large conference in Auckland CBD benefits not just overnight accommodation providers, but also bars, restaurants and retail,” Doolan said.
“An increasing trend around the world is the blending of business and leisure travel – that’s most likely to happen in a conference environment. People might add extra time onto their stay as a pure holiday, or people venture out during the conference to go shopping or experience their surroundings.”
Doolan said many business conferences and events often had built-in leisure activities like team building, something that tourism businesses might benefit from.
“Five-star hotels in particular have ballrooms and meeting spaces. One positive of business events is you can book out in advance, so it provides certainty.
“Building up your mix of business is good for hotels to maximise their revenue.”
Auckland’s CBD has lost a lot of foot traffic and business during the Omicron outbreak, as many feared the high risk of catching the virus whilst in highly-concentrated areas of the city.
Hospitality owners in particular have lost a large amount of nighttime business due to the crime rates in the city after hours.
Chief executive of Business Events Industry Aotearoa Lisa Hopkins believed the easing of restrictions would hopefully drive confidence into the sector, as those attending events will feel more confident attending local outlets with a larger amount of events taking place.
“Hotels will obviously will be big winners, also the organisations like transportation, audio-visual, event designers, entertainment beureaus, but the other winners are hospitality,” said Hopkins.
“Business events are good catalysts, a sales channel driving people to those businesses. It’s a win win across the board.”
The hospitality industry, however, aren’t as convinced.
A statement from Restaurant NZ said while the removal of mandates and increase to gathering numbers is a good thing, the seated and separated rule is still a major issue for the industry.
“We are hopeful [the changes] will give a boost to consumer confidence and ease some of the challenges our industry has been facing.
“But the increase of limits to 200 while the seated and separated rule remains will have little to no impact on our small, medium-sized business which make up the majority of the industry,” the association’s chief executive Marisa Bidois said.
She’d like to see clear Government indicators for when the industry would move to orange, along with a subsidised dining scheme, to “get people back out and stimulating the economy”, she said.