New Zealand travel statistics for November showed visitor arrivals from Australia had boomed, up 9 percent compared with the same month in 2008, but those coming for conferences had more than halved because of two large conferences that boosted numbers last November.
Companies were shying away from offering cheap travel as an incentive to make a purchase or as a reward for sales and other business performance.
SkyCity conference center manager Peter Zielke said that a financial conference and librarian conference last year had distorted the figures and in reality business was picking up.
Although conference delegates were spending less per head, the value of bookings in the next six months was much higher than the first half of 2009.
“I think we are through the tough times,” he said.
Conventions and Incentives New Zealand chief executive Alan Trotter said aside from the skew from the large events, the statistics highlighted a global trend that was hurting incentive travel.
The pressure was on financial institutions in particular to stick to their “corporate social responsibility” strategy and not be seen to be splashing out in hard times.
“Even if they have the wherewithal to do these things, the context in which they are seen to be having these [treats] is just unacceptable, so they are really pulling back,” Mr. Trotter said.
Convention business was benefiting from cheap pricing on trans-Tasman airfares and reports from operators around New Zealand were that things were not dropping away as much as they feared they might.
Australians made up 60 percent of New Zealand’s conference business, he said.
Taupo Convention Bureau manager Di Christie said the dip in incentives travel was pronounced in industries such as insurance and banking, which had received the bulk of the bad press about the recession.
But other industries were still spending, such as agricultural and manufacturing companies, as they saw positive news starting to come out of the economic situation and wanted to reward staff and customers. Recent trips to convention expos in Canberra and Sydney had garnered a positive response for future bookings, but Ms. Christie said the bulk of interest was for 2011, rather than next year.
Australian tourism overall was New Zealand’s “banker market,” Tourism New Zealand acting chief executive Tim Hunter said, pointing to the heavy reliance on trans-Tasman travel to boost overall numbers.