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Auckland woos rich Chinese

JOSH MARTIN
Last updated 05:00 03/06/2014

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Auckland "may never be the French Riviera" but the city is luring Chinese millionaires with luxurious golfing, yachting and equestrian events in the hope they spend like they are in the Mediterranean.

Tourist destinations worldwide are hungry for China's new super-rich and Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED) does not want to miss out.

ATEED tourism manager Jason Hill said Auckland will never emulate luxury hotspots in the Caribbean or Mediterranean, but will lure Chinese tourists using prestige activities.

The organisation's golfing, equine and marine (GEM) strategy is an industry-first for a council tourism organisation because it targets the activities favoured by wealthy Chinese, rather than catch-all destination marketing, Hill says.

"In China, yachting is like the Louis Vuitton of handbags, it's prestige. So our pitch to them is that if you want to learn from the best sailors in the world, do it in Auckland," Hill says.

ATEED's plan compliments those of Auckland International Airport, Air New Zealand, Tourism New Zealand and the Tourism Industry Association (TIA), which plan to replace the bus-loads of Chinese "shopping tours" with a greater number of individual, high-worth travellers.

Prime Minister and Tourism Minister John Key says he is "relaxed" about China banning visas for shopping tours here and the industry should instead focus on wealthy Chinese.

Auckland International Airport has set a target of 893,000 Chinese tourists a year by 2025, up from the current 229,000, but also wants their average spend to increase.

The airport committed $2.2 million, with half coming from the Government, for a marketing campaign focusing on using premium New Zealand food and wine itineraries to lure wealthy Chinese from Guangdong province to New Zealand.

ATEED, meanwhile, specifically promotes New Zealand itineraries to Chinese golf, horse racing and yachting clubs.

It aims to leverage off the growing number of Chinese buyers at horse events such as the Karaka thoroughbred sales, New Zealand's reputation for marine engineering and sailing prowess and even Lydia Ko, whose home golf course is at Gulf Harbour, Auckland.

Hill said once individual Chinese travellers make it onto New Zealand soil for these events, they quickly learn about the ultra-premium food, wine, activities and accommodation on offer.

Helicopter concierge service Heletranz says Chinese, Japanese and Korean visitors make up 10 per cent of its clients, but forward bookings and quotes to North Asian clients mean that will rise to 20 per cent by April 2015 .

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Heletranz managing director Sofia Ambler said services from Auckland for Waiheke Island winery tours, as well as golfing trips to Kauri Cliffs and Cape Kidnappers are in demand by wealthy Chinese.

They pay as much as $10,000 per person, and often combine helicopter services with luxury lodge accommodation or even heli-fishing.

Bay of Islands lodge Eagles Nest offers suites for as much as $20,000 a night and features butler and personal chef services.

General manager Callum Farnell says China is a growing market but educating wealthy Chinese tourists about the perks of personalised lodge stays is essential, because they prefer five-star hotel chains as a mark of prestige.

"They love high quality products; the yachting, the choppers and golf resorts, but wealthy Chinese also want intimate, exclusive activities," Farnell says.

HIGH END TASTES

Accommodation: Five-star hotels and luxury lodges.

Food and Wine: Fresh, local produce but with home comforts. Seafood and Bordeaux-style red wine remain popular.

Activities: Golf holidays including Kauri Cliffs and Terrace Downs. Heli-fishing, yachting and cruising. Exclusive, money-can't-buy experiences.

- The Dominion Post

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