TRENZ Hui Christchurch Wrap: Reviving, Reconnecting & Revitalising

The 2021 Travel Industry Aotearoa (TIA) TRENZ Hui event wrapped in the South Island gateway city of Otahatui Christchurch last Thursday, May 6, after two days of 'Reviving, Reconnecting and Revitalising.' Karryon founder Matt Leedham was honoured to be invited to cross the Tasman to join the big reunion and shares his experience.

The 2021 Travel Industry Aotearoa (TIA) TRENZ Hui event wrapped in the South Island gateway city of Otahatui Christchurch last Thursday, May 6, after two days of ‘Reviving, Reconnecting and Revitalising.’ Karryon founder Matt Leedham was honoured to be invited to cross the Tasman to join the big reunion and shares his experience.

The people of Otahauti Christchurch will tell you that they aren’t particularly fond of the word resilience.

After a decade of enduring horrendous tragedies and COVID-19, the wider community is rather focused today on seizing the moment to embrace new opportunities and drive positive action to make them happen.

So there could be no more appropriate place to proudly welcome over 700 of New Zealand’s travel and tourism community in person and create a safe space to reunite and share their experiences from the last 14 months and their concerns, ideas and visions for the reset of international tourism.

After enduring the absolute worst of times for travel and tourism operators, the length and breadth of the country, this was a milestone moment where the people of the industry could come back up for fresh air to reflect and refocus collectively for a couple of days at least.

Hui is a New Zealand term from the Māori language for a social gathering or assembly. The fact that TRENZ Hui was oversubscribed entirely indicated just how much this timely hui was needed.

The Otahauti Christchurch Town Hall was the venue for the two-day event, itself no stranger to being reborn given its journey from being potentially levelled after the quakes of 2011 to being transformed into a glorious space owned by the community and for the community that will never lose its foundation heritage.

So what happened?

MC Hilary Barry

Ordinarily, the annual TRENZ event held in May showcases all of the wonders that New Zealand has to offer with international buyers from crucial markets networking and doing business while experiencing a taste of the Kiwi good stuff for themselves while they’re on the ground in a different destination every year.

TRENZ is Aotearoa’s premier travel show. Also, it features high-level local and overseas speakers from the industry, workshops and activities and of course, bottomless local fare and drinks to fuel the action-packed few days and nights.

This year, the usual format was reimagined altogether with a completely new programme based on three themes: Revive – Reconnect – Revitalise. The event featured no international buyers or overseas media for obvious reasons, and instead focussed on re-galvanising tour operators and regional tourism offices (RTO’s).

With popular New Zealand TV personality Hilary Barry emceeing the proceedings, day one got underway with TIA Chief Chris Roberts, Tourism New Zealand’s new CEO René de Monchy and TIA chair Gráinne Troute setting the scene, before Mayor of Christchurch the Hon. Lianne Dalziel and general manager Loren Heaphy spoke about the city’s continued evolution, and lessons learnt from New Zealand’s newest city’s journey of exploration.

“We are focused on strategically targeting visitors that are interested in our culture, in our society, in nature, so that we can get a much deeper kind of contribution to New Zealand, beyond just the economic,” said Tourism New Zealand CEO René de Monchy.

The afternoon was all about design thinking workshops, which saw delegates split into small groups and get to express their hopes and concerns while discussing the more significant issues at play, most importantly – together.

The 40-minute workshop topics included:

  • Getting ready for the next stage of tourism
  • Knowing your customer
  • Knowing your neighbour
  • Knowing yourself

An info-overload brain sapping first day concluded with drinks and nibbles and a loud buzz of giddy chatter in the Town Hall auditorium as industry friends old and new got to catch up and share their stories about what are very different times.

What was also a progressive and cost-saving thought was that rather than hosting a large event dinner, delegates were instead urged to get out and about to take advantage of Christchurch’s numerous quality eating and drinking options for the evening after the networking drinks.

How is everyone feeling? And who’s Sarah?

On the morning of day two, in true travel industry fashion, it was clear that perhaps more than a few had heeded the call to support Christchurch’s late-night offerings and give them their hearty tick of approval.

Day two kicked off with a comprehensive wrap of the workshop key themes for everyone to see. With many questions identified, the loudest truths included;

  • COVID-19 has not treated us all the same – different markets require different approaches and solutions
  • We agree on some themes, but the detail gets difficult – understanding and consideration of others is needed
  • We all see value in a united approach – we truly are in this together so let’s share the journey

New Zealand Tourism Minister, the Honourable Stuart Nash, laid out the government roadmap to future proof the industry, saying that he felt tourism was in many ways operating unsustainably pre-Covid. According to a recent survey, “70% of people in Queenstown felt there were too many international tourists.” The solution he said was to regenerate and build alternative economies for prime destinations to offset tourism income and jobs.

Later, Nash was given rousing applause on announcing that 26 Inbound Tour Operators (ITOs) offered NZ$14m in loans last year would receive grants instead. You can only imagine the joy from that news.

New Zealand Tourism Minister, the Honourable Stuart Nash

Following Nash’s address, there were tears, and more laughs as a video montage played of international buyers personal messages from afar. “Please open the borders now!” said a buyer from the USA, “I can’t wait to give you all a massive hug and have a wine with you,” said another from the UK, raising her glass to the camera. It was poignant, joyful stuff and another reminder of how much working in the travel industry means and why it should never be taken for granted.

A new ‘TRENZ Connect’ platform was announced to broaden the shows’ reach virtually and ensure operators can connect with the world and showcase their offerings 24/7.

Some of the big challenges… Sound familiar?

An insightful international industry expert panel featuring Futurist Carolyn Childs, Livio Goetz from Switzerland Tourism (AU/NZ) Director, Peter Harding from Grand Pacific Tours and Air New Zealand’s sales GM for the Pacific Islands Ben Evers-Swindell covered a range of topics, including current nervous trans-Tasman sentiment, regenerative tourism over greenwashing and the need more than ever to embrace our own community and understanding tourism’s role it.

“It’s still going to be a slow burn, but we’re off the bottom,” said Peter Harding from Grand Pacific Tours referring to getting trans-Tasman travel going again.

To close the event, Resilience expert, TED speaker and Christchurch local Dr Lucy Hone shared how the death of her 12-year old daughter Abi in a tragic road accident had shaped her work around dealing with adversity and mental wellbeing.

Dr Hone’s wise takeaways? The blame game will not help you. Are your actions helping or harming you? Surround yourself with those who lift you in life and tick off a social, physical, pleasure and achievement goal for yourself every single day to avoid burnout.

It was a fitting end to a mood-lifting and desperately needed couple of days for the industry where hugs, laughter and positivity were in abundance, coupled with a dose of reality at the scale of challenges that lie ahead for all of us.

Dr Lucy Hone

But as Dr Hone said of tackling adversity, “You always have a choice – whether to choose post-traumatic stress or post-traumatic growth.”

If you take Otahauti Christchurch’s recent history as a shining example, you can understand why the locals are not so keen on using the word resilience. Instead, it’s collective, considered and regenerative growth that is the only way to go for this community and the city in general.

Something we can all learn from.

Find out more about TIA: www.tia.org.nz

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