Incentive Travel Groups Visit the Hobbits’ Homeland

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incentive travel, meetingsWith its location on two major harbors, Auckland brings incentive groups the best that a seaside metropolis can offer.

Wine tasting on Waiheke Island matched by a visit to the popular Hobbiton village movie set impressed 28 incentive travel experts during a three-day meeting this past January.

The board of trustees group from the Incentive Research Foundation (IRF) met in Auckland for its annual board meeting and stayed at The Langham, Auckland, a 411-room 19th century British-style hotel. Traveling from all over North America and the United Arab Emirates, the group worked with local DMC Extra Mile Company to execute event details.

“Attendees were all in the incentive industry, so they have high expectations around events and their delivery,” explains Eugene De Villiers, director of partnerships and strategy for Extra Mile Company. “They have attended hundreds of events around the world, so the pressure was on us to deliver a unique experience, whilst showcasing Auckland and New Zealand.”

Going the Extra Mile

One way that Extra Mile showcased the New Zealand experience is through food. The company decided to have a different fish selection each day so that attendees could try snapper, hapuku and kingfish. The group took a ferry to Cockle Bay and attended a traditional Kiwi barbecue at a private residence the first night of the event. Delicious prawns, fresh snapper and New Zealand lamb steaks highlighted some of the country’s best fare.

De Villiers  says another F&B highlight was a private dinner arranged in the Chandelier Room of The Langham that included an exclusive menu created by the chef. “Our view is that [attendees] of this caliber get taken all around the world. We wanted to do things differently and really personalize their experience. The attention to detail to make the service and experience smooth, fluid and easy is what made that special.”

In between meeting with local industry partners to discuss incentive industry global trends, the group managed to venture outside the downtown core via private limousine to one of New Zealand’s most talked about attractions: Hobbiton, inspired by the hit film trilogy “Lord of the Rings.” The tour included lunch at the on-site Green Dragon Inn (a Hobbit-themed alehouse).

“Even though [Hobbiton] was outside of Auckland, we felt this was one unique attraction that was a must-see,” De Villiers says.

A delicious final dinner at Ostro Restaurant also included panoramic views of Waitemata Harbour. Vineyards, olive groves and beaches greeted attendees the following morning on Waiheke Island, where a private wine-tasting at Mudbrick Vineyard & Restaurant and tour of the estate ensued. The group boarded a helicopter in the afternoon where they toured Mechanics Bay.

Message in a Greenstone

The IRF meeting concluded with one last New Zealand touch: a personalized gift for each attendee made out of greenstone. This helped tell the story of the indigenous Maori people who believe that jade has spiritual powers. The belief of giving the greenstone is that once you have been given one, you must keep it and not give it away. Then, when you next visit New Zealand, you must bring it back with you to its home.

“This fitted in nicely with what we wanted to achieve in terms of promoting New Zealand, and it gave attendees a connection to the country to encourage them to come back,” says De Villiers.

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