CHRISTCHURCH CONVENTION CENTRE: 2005 almost booked out at Christchurch Convention Centre

 Space is at a premium during the peak conference season April to November at the Christchurch Convention Centre and Sales & Marketing Director Cathy Hemsworth is advising conference organisers of large events to get in early with their bookings and plan well ahead for future years. Christchurch is already missing out on some short lead time events because they cannot be accommodated. 

"That's disappointing for the organisers, us, and the city. I absolutely hate to turn business away and we do everything we possible can to offer suitable alternative space at the Convention Centre, Town Hall Westpac Centre or other city venues before we finally wave the opportunity good bye," Cathy Hemsworth said. "It goes against the grain of everything we are doing in the marketplace to sell our city but there's no alternative sometimes although often we do get a booking for a future year."

Cathy Hemsworth said an emerging industry trend was for shorter lead time for corporate events, from both Australia ad New Zealand clients. "The larger conferences by necessity are planned several years in advance, but for many corporates there can be just a few months from concept to meetings - and that's where we start to run into booking overload. It's not so difficult for local events if there is some flexibility around dates, and often they have managed to fit between larger events by adjusting their dates by one or two days."

"This is a very busy year for the Christchurch Convention Centre. From the beginning of April there is virtually no space available until the middle of November. We are currently taking firm bookings for 2006/07 and even 2008 is filling out. It's imperative that conference organisers consider their events a number of years in advance given the demand for space during this high conference season," Cathy Hemsworth said.

The Christchurch Convention Centre is New Zealand's only purpose built international standard venue, able to accommodate up to 2500 delegates. As well as the main convention halls and meeting rooms, the Town Hall Auditorium and James Hay Theatre, linked by airbridge, are often used for plenary sessions or gala dinners.

A large Asia Pacific IT event will take up the first two weeks of April, followed by several conferences including four international science conferences.

Cathy Hemsworth said Christchurch's popularity is based on many things. "It's seen as an exquisite destination and easy gateway to the beautiful picturesque South Island. Visitors really appreciate the ease of access from the gateway international airport into the CBD, and the close proximity of the venue to all the major hotels within the CBD.

"We're also known for being the gateway to Antarctica, and home to the internationally renowned Antarctic Centre. Organisers find it very convenient to plan partnersí programmes and touring options based on the range of things within 2 hour radius, such as beautiful wineries, extreme sports such as bungy jumping, jet boating and so on. Proven favourites are skiing, thermal pools set in an alpine vista, dolphin and whale watch attractions, the TranzAlpine and costal scenic rail trips. And to top that off Christchurch has a great reputation for wonderful restaurants, great shopping and an exchange rate that is favourable for delegates!"

 Most of the business comes from New Zealand and then Australia, supplemented with international and Asia Pacific meetings and congresses. "The Asia Pacific market is a natural extension of the work we are doing in Australia and we will continue to monitor and market this region. It's growing slowly but the business is significant and solid. We are now getting results from our NCC M&D Bangkok relationship and five years work at trade fairs and industry support in the Asian countries from Bangkok," Cathy Hemsworth said.