New Zealand's bid for the Internatiol Council of Aircraft Owners & Pilots Associations World Assembly was so formidable its European competition pulled out.
When your international conference competition decides to pull out of the final bidding process once they’ve laid eyes on your bid document, you know you are onto a winner. That was the case for the International Council of Aircraft Owners & Pilots Associations (IAOPA) World Assembly 2018, which was won by New Zealand with a popular package that incorporated excellent local knowledge in the aviation field, the beauty of Queenstown, and the awesome appeal of the Warbirds over Wanaka airshow.
AOPA New Zealand President Ian Andrews first attended the World Assembly in China two years ago, and immediately saw the benefits of hosting the event in New Zealand. IAOPA is the largest general aviation organisation in the world, representing nearly 470,000 pilots who fly aircraft for personal, agricultural, or business use. While New Zealand only has 1,050 members, it has a lot to offer in terms of expertise and excellent flying experiences, Andrews says. “New Zealand is probably one of the most developed countries for flying. We have extremely high ratios of aeroplane ownership, with 4,000-plus aeroplanes in the country - that’s 1 to every 1,000 people. New Zealand has a world-leading air traffic management system, we do a lot of charting and we select air traffic trainees for the US. A New Zealand company does the exams for pilot testing. We have high-level aircraft manufacturing companies, and some of the best training organisations in Nelson, Massey, Hamilton and Christchurch. We are pretty much up there in the world field.”
He expects a good response from the New Zealand aviation community. “Locals can meet more people, do a lot of networking, without having to go to an international conference. We are looking at the themes ‘technology’ and ‘the freedom to fly’. Technology is changing a lot and New Zealand is in front of what's happening. We can show people what we’re doing here.” Andrews is hopeful he can attract at least 200 international attendees to the 2018 event to share knowledge and build business opportunities. “Even in China, the Europeans were saying they want to come to New Zealand. It is a long way to come. We will make the content good but that’s only part of it; the rest of it is selling New Zealand.”
And they certainly have, with a spectacular programme that makes the most of Queenstown’s iconic scenery and superior aviation assets. The assembly itself will take place March 25-29 2018 at Rydges Hotel, Queenstown. “The facilities are great there. You step outside Rydges and everything is in walking distance. Queenstown is brilliant,” Andrews says. “Coming into Queenstown is one of the best approaches in the world, it's a classic spot to take people up and see the flights come in and out. On the third day of the conference we plan to go out to Nokomai Station, which has an airstrip, and people can go up and see some of the real beauty of New Zealand.”
The pre and post-conference activity, unsurprisingly, will revolve around flying. Andrews envisions a number of the international pilots will have their pilot licence validated here, and, if they pass a local flight check, take to the air themselves. He’s also working on a pre-tour which will give visitors the chance to see the amazing collections at the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre in Blenheim, featuring Sir Peter Jackson’s own collection of WWI aircraft, as well as the Vintage Aviation Museum in Masterton. “Post-event, we’ll be running a tour to Warbirds over Wanaka, which will be a great drawcard to get people here,” he notes. “Warbirds over Wanaka is spectacular. You’re sitting right on the runway and the flying and the aircraft are world-class. New Zealand holds so much appeal for our target audience. Our aim is to make this conference 10 times better than the ones before it.”
It is an ambitious target; but one that seems highly achievable, given the positive reaction to New Zealand’s bid. With limited resources - “it's me and three other committee members doing most of this” - Andrews reached out to Tourism New Zealand’s Business Events team for support in staging the bid. “They were fantastic. I had no idea Tourism New Zealand would give us support like they have, it has been absolutely brilliant. I’d definitely recommend contacting them to anyone trying to win an event like this," Andrews says. "Assistance included funding and developing a very impressive bid document, as well as supporting our team to go to the 2016 IAOPA World Assembly in Chicago to deliver the bid.
“I took 100 of the brochures to Chicago and put them in the office at the start of the conference,” Andrews says. “I didn't know who else was bidding but found out Germany, Italy and Austria had planned a joint bid. The German guy came into our office and said: “I’ve seen your presentation... I’ll withdraw now.” Once the Germans had surrendered, a final PowerPoint presentation, including stunning video footage of flying in New Zealand, sealed the deal with the IAOPA decision makers. “We know someone on the committee, and when they voted, everybody put two hands up for New Zealand,” Andrews laughs. “He said if they’d had three, they would have put three hands up.”