Culture & Creativity Q&A: Air New Zealand

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We spoke with Kathy Hill, manager MICE cruise & groups, the Americas for Air New Zealand to learn more about combining culture and creativity for group programs.

Q. Is there growing demand for meetings & incentives in New Zealand?

A: Yes! For the past two years, Air New Zealand and Tourism New Zealand have partnered together to showcase New Zealand to the incentive market as the ideal place for programs of any size and interest. The response has been overwhelming, and we are very excited about the results.

We have jointly offered a couple of educational trips over the past few years, which has had an incredible impact on the meeting planners involved who described them as life-changing experiences they can’t wait to share with their customers.

Q: What are some creative destination programs that offer a local, authentic travel experience?

A: We suggest an activity based around Auckland sailing, which is a huge part of the culture. Our harbor is beautiful, living up to its title as the “City of Sails.” Waiheke Island, a boutique island 40 minutes by ferry from downtown Auckland, (also listed on the New York Times’ top 46 places to go in 2013 list).

In Queenstown, you are spolied for choice as there are so many ways to experience the spectacular and memorable atmosphere.

Q: What cultural experiences should planners consider in your destination? 

A: Air New Zealand’s goal is to be part of the Kiwi experience rather than just transporting the group. We give each program its own identity, not one package fits all, so all programs are customized to complement each other. Our airport staff, in-flight crew and incentive group specialist are eager to create a true Kiwi experience the moment the group steps on board.

New Zealand has a rich Maori culture that is communicated through stories and songs. One good example is the deeply symbolic Maori welcome (powhiri), a very special greeting and favorite experience for visitors. This ceremony is typically followed by hangi, a Maori feast that is cooked in the traditional manner of underground ovens.

Q: Are there any examples of planners and groups using technology in new and creative ways?

A. Air New Zealand is breaking new ground by launching a new venue in Auckland that highlights the innovation of the carrier and enhances customer experience. The Customer Innovation & Collaboration Centre will be available for events and was designed to inspire innovation in all who visit.