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Dec 2016: Waikato a place of powerful opportunities

Hamilton and Waikato are places of powerful possibilities… the beating heart of the country. Those very apt words are used in the recently released Waikato Story. The Waikato Story will, I am certain, achieve its aim of building community pride and point out why the Waikato region is a great place to “live and thrive, visit and enjoy, study to succeed, and to work and invest in.”

Hamilton Gardens, Hamilton

Hamilton has long been the brunt of jokes, and sadly some locals share this low opinion of the city and the region. We are not going to change our image with that attitude. It is time to become passionate advocates for our region… time to take ownership of all the wonderful things our Waikato Story highlights – and there are many.

In the conference and business events sector our competitors are starting to sit up and take notice of us. The region is seeing a rising trend; an influx of international conference activity. International conference organisers are attracted by top tourist destinations such as Hobbiton™ Movie Set, the Waitomo Caves, and Hamilton Gardens. They appreciate the world-class quality of our conference facilities (Claudelands Conference & Exhibition Centre is an example).

In the past year, Hamilton and the Waikato region has successfully won seven conference bids through Tourism New Zealand’s Conference Assistance Programme. This equates to a $4,473,080 injection into the local economy. Plus we have four conference bids in the pipeline, with more under discussion. (Also helpful in securing these international conferences is our proximity to Auckland airport, and New Zealand’s reputation as a safe destination with natural resources and a beautiful landscape).

Hamilton Gardens continues to scoop up awards, adding to its impressive international reputation. Three years ago very few people outside the region had heard of Hamilton Gardens (locals were a little vague too). Now visitors are coming to New Zealand specifically to visit the gardens. We have traditionally been a drive-through region, but increasingly visitors are staying a night or two, with guest nights increasing seven percent to year end September 16 (national average six percent). Visitors realise that a protracted stay enables them to see Hamilton Gardens, visit Hobbiton Movie Set, Waitomo, Zealong Tea Plantation and Raglan with its bohemian, surfy vibe… to name but a few of our wonderful attractions.

We have fantastic events, including Fieldays, Balloons over Waikato, the NZ Shearing Championships, the Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival, and a multitude of sporting events. Take Fieldays as an example. This, the Southern Hemisphere’s largest agricultural trade show, generated $58 million GDP for Waikato this year. The region also boasts a delicious smorgasbord of gourmet delights, including award-winning eateries, microbreweries, artisan producers, farmers’ markets and fine-dining.

Waikato has impressive conference hotels, accommodation and suppliers, and the Claudelands Conference & Exhibition Centre, which I believe is the country’s best. We also have a history of delivering successful events and all these things combine to improve the perception of Waikato (Hamilton) as a conference and business events destination. It’s little wonder that this year the region won Best Stand at the Convene Tradeshow, and Regional Stand Winner at the Meetings Tradeshow. In October, the region played host to the Conventions and Incentives NZ National Conference for the first time in 40 years – the conference was held at Claudelands Conference & Exhibition Centre.

As I reflect over the past year – my first in this role – I am enormously proud of our region which is going from great to greater. I view the Waikato Story and there is much that resonates. How proud I am to call the Mighty Waikato my turangawaewae.

Hamilton & Waikato Tourism’s Business Events team provides a free service to organisers looking for a venue or service in Waikato for their conference or business event. Assistance ranges from answering basic questions to obtaining quotes, preparing conference bids, and organising site inspections.

Written by Amanda Graham -, tel: (07) 843 0056, email: