Outlook for NZ Events Industry in 2021

Industry Experts

The events industry in New Zealand was an obvious victim of the fall out from COVID in 2020.

As we launch into 2021, we thought it would be useful to talk to some industry experts about how the industry is looking now, and what adaptations are taking place as small businesses essentially relaunch, and people get moving again.

Hooley has been very lucky to be able to talk to dozens and dozens of event related people over the last few months, and the positivity and number 8 wire thinking we are seeing, is nothing short of inspirational!

Emma Henderson, Donna Buchanan, and Sarah Lewis have some interesting insights for us.

Emma Henderson

Am.me Event Advisor

About Emma Henderson

With a Hospo father Emma was born and bred in a commercial kitchen and after many years in restaurants found her true love in life… Events. Emma was owner and Event Director of LittleWolf for 7 years and built the company into a recognisable brand that was known for out of the box thinking. After selling the business Emma moved into the experiential space with World Vision NZ and has now returned to her love of catering with Taste. Emma offers her services through her new business am.me ltd to connect suppliers and venues together to find perfect brand alignment.

How was Christmas trade?  Nov/Dec 2020? 

We ended 2020 on a high! We were thrown a few curve balls with the last minute-ness of all bookings but on a whole we felt positive with how things ended. Budgets were tighter but people generally wanted to praise their teams for making it through a hard year.

What’s the vibe for the events industry as we roll into 2021?

I feel that there is still a cloud over the industry, people are uncertain and reluctant to make plans while the climate outside of NZ is still so disastrous. As a whole NZ is lacking the vibrant foreign event trade that it had before COVID but because of that I have seen some great initiatives towards local clients and hope that this will continue.

What types of events do you think we will see in 2021?

Kiwi focused, more showcasing why NZ is a beautiful place to live, work and event! Now is a chance for people to use the venues, suppliers and produce that is normally snapped up by our international guests, so take advantage!

Is there an element of hesitation or optimism for those planning events in 2021?

I think that people may still be hesitant to have long lead times, but I am optimistic that events will start happening. NZ has a sense of being ‘the lucky one’ and I think it will make people appreciate and put more thought into their events.

What are the trends do you think we will see?

Not sure if it is a trend but I think we will see more industry collaboration. People who have competed in the past are now working together to produce the best possible outcome for their clients and their business. I think as a whole Covid has bought the event and hospitality industry together more than it ever has been.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Hooley is the perfect platform to get this collaborative work style thriving. Not just for people holding events but I would encourage suppliers to look at it as a source of great networking and relationship opportunities.

Donna Buchanan

Women in Events New Zealand

About Donna Buchanan

Donna Buchanan is the Women in Events New Zealand Managing Director, her passion is to bring women together to create a peer-to-peer support network within the events industry. She has had a career in events spanning more than 20 years throughout New Zealand and the United Kingdom. As well as managing WiE’s NZ, Donna also runs her own preloved fashion markets – Gently Loved Markets

How was Christmas trade?  Nov/Dec 2020? 

Good, the Women in Events New Zealand, the Wellington and Christchurch free networking events were still on pause, but the Auckland November event went ahead at Garnet Station. It was a smaller group than other years for the November event, but from the feedback I received it was mainly due to the event industry having a very busy start of the event season. Which was great to hear.

What’s the vibe for the events industry as we roll into 2021? 

Incredibly positive and chomping at the bit to move on from 2020. I feel the event industry is still wary of another lockdown and this has led our industry to be very creative and put alternative measures in place to still hold events if a lockdown was to happen.

What types of events do you think we will see in 2021? 

I think we will see an explosion of kiwi talent, from our well known household names to a wonderful range of up incoming new talent. We have already seen this over the past month at festivals such as The Other Side Festival, Bay of Islands Music Festival and Rhythm n Vines. It will only get better.

Is there an element of hesitation or optimism for those planning events in 2021? 

I think there is both. I know as an event manager I have put a contingency plan in place for my events – Gently Loved Markets and the Women in Events New Zealand free networking events. If we were to go into a higher lockdown and even if the event could not be held face to face. But as an industry we are very resilient and with this comes optimism to just to get the job done and take whatever curve ball is thrown our way. 

What are the trends do you think we will see? 

The digital elements of our events will grow. I think that Covid-19 has not decreased the need for face to face events, we thrive when we are able to connect in person and there will always be a need for the conventional type of events. Now with the new added layer of Covid-19, it has taught us to be creative and respectful of how we are to hold our events now and in the future. By introducing or growing the digital components of our events, we can open the event up to a wider audience and optimistically still hold events if we are unable to meet in person.

Anything else you’d like to add? 

I’m very excited about the future of events in New Zealand. It saddens me when I hear from event colleagues in the UK that have been out of work for months, some coming on a year and they receive very little support from their government agencies to bring their industry back. I feel extremely fortunate to still be able to do what I love, events! 

Sarah Lewis

Sursum Consulting

About Sarah Lewis

Currently, I am the founder and Managing Director of Sursum Consulting and I’m delighted to have worked with a diverse range of clients including Real Journeys Queenstown Winter Festival, Steven Adams Invitational, Scott Mclaughlin Grand Prix. Rotorua Economic Development, and the NZ Masters Games to name a few.

How was Christmas trade?  Nov/Dec 2020?

I was lucky enough to contract to a couple of major events, Bay Dreams North in Tauranga and Michelin SX4in Taupo. There has also been a lot of interest for the year ahead so I’m feeling optimistic. 

What’s the vibe for the events industry as we roll into 2021?

NZ seems to be focused on business as usual but I think there is an undercurrent of caution as we watch the rest of the world face continuous lock down’s and new strains of Covid seem likely to penetrate the MIQ process in NZ. For small personal events and celebrations, there seems to be limited impact but the corporate event market has indisputably shrunk in the last 12 months. We may see a return in late 2021 but fiscal responsibility and caution is still very much the vibe in this market. 

What types of events do you think we will see in 2021?

I think there will be a degree of status quo. It seems like new events may pop up at a small level but a lot of sponsorship money has been retracted due to Covid as has a fair bit of local and central government funding which could once be justified by economic development into a region with strong rates of return for the tourism and hospitality market. 

Is there an element of hesitation or optimism for those planning events in 2021?

As I’ve touched on, I think there is a delicate balance of both depending on the sector. Whilst participation remains high and strong for events such as festivals and multi-sport and endurance events, the underlying funding model has had to adjust and therefore there will be more onus on ‘user-pays’ for such things. Having seen the huge success that was Bay Dreams and the willingness for some amazing artists to quarantine, I certainly believe that part of the spectrum will continue to flourish as people revel in our unique freedoms at present.

What are the trends do you think we will see?

• People continue to want to congregate but the cost of attending events may increase for the end user as funding sources retract.

• Businesses that are agile and have a lighter overhead model will survive this period of geographic isolation and be able to survive until the borders open.

• NZ’ers will continue to lead the way in finding ways to have fun, compete and celebrate, hopefully without further community spread impacting the ability to do so. 

Anything else you’d like to add?

Have a great contract!

Having learned the hard way (and sadly not the first time!), it is vital that suppliers and contractors to the industry secure payment up front where possible. With the possibility of things changing drastically, very quickly, it is key to have clear terms and conditions in any contract to ensure you are protected. 

Stay Creative!

Read trends, listen to how people want to spend time and money now they are restricted in their ability to have fun and meaningful experiences off-shore. Adapt and offer opportunities to surprise and delight your market. 

By Deanna Hinde (Hooley Founder)
January 2021

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