The notion that a stranger can soon become a friend after a conversation and a meal was the concept behind Tourism New Zealand’s innovative stand at the IMEX trade show in Frankfurt from May 15-17.

Photo Copyright: ©Tourism New Zealand

Convention planners could enjoy a korero (conversation) and kai (food) at a dining table intricately designed and carved from ancient reclaimed swamp kauri by the New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute (NZMACI) to reflect Maori hospitality traditions that have shaped contemporary New Zealand culture.

The table has been made in two pieces. One part remains in New Zealand and the other travels around the world.

In Frankfurt the two pieces came together separated only by a high definition screen. At one end were the convention planners enjoying New Zealand produce at IMEX and at the other end were Kiwis dining at Rotowhio Marae in Rotorua and Harbourside in Auckland, to give the illusion everyone is seated at the same table.

“The korero and kai table is a powerful symbol of how New Zealand welcomes strangers and makes them feel at home. It also acts as an invitation to the world to come and experience New Zealand’s beauty and our warm hospitality for themselves,” says Lisa Gardiner, Manager of Business Events and Premium at Tourism New Zealand.

Carved by former NZMACI head of school and Master Carver, Albert Te Pou, the table incorporates two main designs – kowhaiwhai and taratara a kai (or kae).

NZMACI general manager, Eraia Kiel says, “To tie in the korero aspect of this kaupapa (initiative), the kowhaiwhai design weaves in the stories of who we are here in Aotearoa, focusing on nature, culture and tradition.

“The taratara a kai design speaks of the value of kai to show hospitality and bring people together.”

Te Puia general manager sales and marketing, Kiri Atkinson-Crean, says the focus on live korero sits at the heart of this kaupapa (principle) and much like travelling, you never know who you will meet. “People gather around the table, as if they were together in the same room, to share stories and connect with each other in a unique, yet simple, way. It’s a privilege for our culture to be at the forefront of those interactions, sharing our cultural narratives with the world and educating people on the beauty of our material culture.”

This year the industry partners exhibiting at the 100% Pure New Zealand stand from 15-17 May 2018 were the New Zealand International Convention Centre (NZICC), Christchurch Convention Centre (Otakaro Limited), Auckland Venues, Auckland Convention Bureau, ID Tours and Te Puia.