Shout-out for Nelson: your best conference location!


When Meeting in the Middle is NOT a Compromise

I love a good conference. It’s a chance to reconnect with business colleagues outside your immediate circle, make new contacts, share knowledge and learn. You also get the chance to experience a new town or at least new activities in a place you’re been before. (Plus – confession time – if you’re at the family part of the life-cycle it’s a delightful mini break for one! You get to be an adult for an extended period of time: you can finish work, dress up and go out again without anyone else to think about except the obligatory phone call to hear about the day and say goodnight – AND you have complete control over the devices, day and night.)

You step outside your day to day life and hopefully learn something to boot – what’s not to love?!

The Conference aka Business Events market is highly sought after by destinations as delegates traditionally spend up to three times more than a leisure visitor.

Unless a venue for several thousand is required (dictating Auckland, or Wellington and soon'ish, Christchurch again), New Zealand’s regions represent varying attractive options for this lucrative market and all regions have at least half a person – usually more – allocated to marketing their attributes to business events’ organisers.

But if you want a destination that gives busy minds true space to breathe, Nelson in on point.

Five reasons why Nelson is the ideal location for your next conference.

Recalling the first time I organised a conference in Nelson (visiting from Auckland some 15 years ago) Nelson was looking good against other destinations for hosting a conference, and it’s facilities and infrastructure have expanded considerably since then.

So here’s a shout out for Nelson – because while many regions do well in some of the categories, this coastal city located in the centre of New Zealand with high sunshine hours weighs in strongly on each must-have on a conference organiser’s list:

1. Venues

I’ve always considered the work sessions to be the main event: money has been invested in the speakers and your organisation has invested in you attending, so the quality of conference venue is of paramount importance. An appealing space, with comfortable chairs and ambiance, clear sight lines, near-by break out options, good catering, warm, helpful and professional staff … is it so much to ask? (My personal bug bears are bad chairs, chosen for stacking ability rather than back-comfort, and unprofessional staff that seem to think if they’re not looking at you, you can’t hear them shifting tables, letting doors slam behind them or putting out the infernal clattering coffee cups - but I digress).

Between the Trafalgar Complex, Grand Mercure Nelson Monaco, Trailways, Saxton Fields and The Rutherford Hotel Nelson ably meets your requirements for venue spaces, large or small.

2. Accommodation

It’s optimum to be staying on-site or within five minutes’ walking distance to the venue. Nelson offers accommodation options to suit all itineraries and budgets – corporate, association or incentive: whether luxury eco-lodge or secluded high-end B&B, hotels, motels or serviced apartments, visitors will feel the inviting charm that is synonymous with this region.

While it might be considered ideal by the ‘party’ delegates to have town on the doorstep, many clients prefer to keep the group together to optimise connection within the group. A stand-out option in Nelson is the Grand Mercure Nelson Monaco. This resort-like hotel sits beside a tidal estuary on a peaceful and attractive isthmus not too far from the airport, on the outskirts of the city.

Developed just 13 years ago with cobblestones, traditional red brickwork and large exposed pillars to just two-storey level, this property is less hotel more charming English village complete with a village green and hall, bar and restaurant, several conference room size options, hairdressers and beauty therapists plus swimming pool, gym and well-tended gardens. Being worlds apart from the traditional corporate hotel atmosphere, I’ve found delegates are refreshed and therefore more receptive to the business at hand.

High Street, Grand Mercure Nelson Monaco

3. Activities

Much has been written and Instagram is alive with images of this naturally stunning region. But we live in a stunning country: what makes this region special is the settled, temperate weather year-round, increasing the activity options immensely in the common conference months of winter.

In addition, that same benign atmosphere attracts people for lifestyle, so this region has ended up with many highly skilled and creative people choosing to live here, which in turn has led to top quality international standard activities, experienced with the group market: Wilsons Abel Tasman, Farewell Spit Eco Tours and Reid Helicopters, Happy Valley Adventures, McCashins Brewery or Neudorf Vineyards … to name just a few favourites.

Abel Tasman day

4. Easy Access

It’s a lovely little factoid to note Nelson is located at the geographical centre of NZ but that alone doesn’t guarantee good access. Add the following factors into the mix, however, and conference delegates are zipping in and out with the slightest of ease:

  • Six different airlines service Nelson Airport (I know, right?! SIX: the big two – Air NZ and Jetstar - plus provincial services via Originair, Golden Bay Air, Air2There and Sounds Air.)
  • Up to 600 flights in and out each week (Nelson Airport is mid-way through a two-year $32m expansion to cope with the extra interest in all things Nelson)
  • Road access from north and south via Canterbury (Christchurch), the West Coast and Marlborough (and from there on to Wellington via some 80 car-ferry crossings a week with Interislander and Bluebridge)
  • While Nelson is a compact city and a pleasure to explore on foot, good quality group transport is available through Scenic NZ Abel Tasman (formerly known as Nelson Coachlines) between venues, accommodation and activities

5. Business Connections

The other attribute of this delightful provincial location not oft understood is the amount of serious business rooted in Nelson, making it the obvious location for businesses wanting to align with or learn more about some industries.

Particular business strengths include:

  • High-value food and wine (either raw product or added value processing)
  • Aviation (incl Nelson Aviation College; Air NZ’s regional maintenance facility)
  • Horticulture/Viticulture/Forestry
  • Aquaculture (a global leader with Australasia’s largest deep sea fishing port; Tally’s, NZ King Salmon and Sealord; NZ’s largest aquaculture training facility)
  • Tourism
  • Science (Cawthron Institute, the largest independent science research organisation in NZ)
  • An uncommonly high number of artists and artisans

This points Professional Conference Organisers (PCOs) and other business event organisers towards greater guest speaker possibilities and an array of private tour possibilities at relevant businesses and services as part of the conference programme.

So, next time you’re considering where your group should meet – large or small, with or without partners, multi-day or just overnight – remember, meeting in the middle (of the country) is not a compromise but rather a promise of an exceptional event.

Read on for a great partner programme option, or perhaps a breakout session with a difference!

Click here