Rotorua -- known for its geothermal activity and thermal pools -- is New Zealand's third largest conference market, with direct flights from Sydney and most New Zealand hubs.
The North Island city sits behind only Wellington and Auckland in terms of where your NZ-based conference is likely to end up, and with the Australian dollar still strong against the Kiwi, Rotorua's accessibility for multi-day conferences makes it an attractive option.
Surprised by Rotorua's relative importance on the conference scene, I stayed for two nights at the Holiday Inn, one of Rotorua's largest and most conference-friendly hotels.
Location & Impressions
The Holiday Inn sits away from the centre of Rotorua near the Whakarewarewa thermal pools on the southeastern side of town, roughly 9km from the airport in the northeast.
It's a modern building when you pull up, with a decent amount of parking if you've rented a car. A hotel shuttle runs into town if you do want to head into the centre.
Check-in was swift and helpful, with the notably engaging and friendly staff notably keen to ensure I had everything I needed.
I stayed in a room in the Whaka wing, which is the low-rise section overlooking the Whakarewarewa thermal pools -- a pretty impressive view. (In the tower section, the views are more expansive but further away from the pools right next to the hotel, so it's a tradeoff.)
My double queen-bedded room was spacious and light -- especially with the reflection from the clouds of steam pouring from the thermal pools (that reflection explains why some of my photos seem an odd tinted colour).
Entering the room, the bathroom was immediately on the left. On the right sat a large built-in closet, tea/coffee shelf plus fridge below, and pleasingly long built-in luggage rack, followed by a desk. By the window sat two remarkably comfy armchairs, with the beds on the left-hand side of the room.
The beds were Holiday Inn's standard, with firm and soft pillows plus mattress pad.
The bathrooom was unremarkable -- neither especially new nor especially old -- with a shower over the tub and the usual Holiday Inn global toiletries.
The power point situation in the room is a little sparse, with the only power on the TV side. Fortunately, I travel with a power board, but if I didn't, I'd have been a little stuck for charging all my electronics.
The desk in these low-rise wing rooms isn't cut out for working, so if you need to spend more than an hour or so you'll probably prefer one of the high-rise deluxe rooms, which are slightly better set up.
Given the hotel's conference orientation, though, you're likely to be spending more time outside the room in meetings than working at the desk.
If you're conferencing, the hotel offers the impressively big Pohutu cultural theatre, usually home to the evening Maori Cultural Show & Feast, as its largest space. Six smaller rooms are available on-site.
Wifi was the dreadful Reivernet system, which I've outlined previously -- it's frustrating, overpriced and absolutely not worth the NZ$30 price. Speed was just okay at 6.4Mbps down and 0.5Mbps up.
There is, however, free wifi with a 30 minute (or 30MB, whichever comes first) limit in the lobby, which is pretty good for New Zealand's famously poor Internet offering.
I tried both room service and lunch at the hotel. Bear in mind that the main Chapman's restaurant is only fully open for dinner, so if you're planning lunch you'll be eating in the lobby. (The food's good, though.)
Room service was impressive, with a great prawn starter and a superb and generously portioned lamb shank.
Breakfast was pleasingly international -- since the hotel hosts a number of east Asian guests during tourist season, you'll find dishes like congee and miso soup in addition to an already wide-ranging breakfast buffet.
With geothermal pools on your doorstep and a cultural theatre dinner "experience" on-site the hotel offers the full Rotorua package if you're interested.
The hotel's outdoor swimming pool is heated by those same thermal pools, and there's a gym to keep your workout routine going.
And if you need some "teambuilding" between meetings, there's always the arcade room with air hockey and various video games to divert your attention from whatever you're really supposed to be doing.
I was expecting the Holiday Inn Rotorua to be geared much more strongly towards the leisure traveller heading for the hot springs, but there's much to recommend the hotel for business travellers too -- especially as a conference venue where you might still need to get some regular work done. (Pick a tower room if work is a priority, since the desk setup is better.)
The on-site leisure options, always a consideration for the meeting planner so that attendees can let off steam (pardon the pun), make it a great choice for Rotorua-based meetings.