'Gan bei' toast to Auckland
There was pomp, there was ceremony, there were banquets and toasts (including "gam bei" which literally means "dry glass"), there were investors keen to discuss business with New Zealand, there were relationships started and deals done.
The recent Auckland Council-led trade mission to China - the first such trade mission by the new super- city - has been deemed a success by the companies attending.
Before the trip we profiled five Auckland companies in different business sectors on their expectations and now ask them whether these were delivered?
Auckland Airport (infrastructure/tourism)
Auckland Airport chief executive Simon Moutter joined the delegation halfway through and, as it turned out, was somewhat distracted at the time sealing the deal on his new job as head of Telecom. The poker-faced Moutter didn't let that one slip out on the bus.
His take on the tourism market in China is that the forecast growth of 20 per cent per annum to New Zealand will happen though at the same time it is an incredibly crowded market. "It's very difficult to figure a channel to market when we're a small country at the bottom of the planet," he said.
"It left me with a sense of a very big opportunity. But we have to get smarter in how we go to market otherwise our market share will fall, not rise."
Moutter has instigated a strategic review within his company of how the tourism sector as a whole, rather than just Auckland Airport, can better execute in Asia. The review is due for completion in June and Moutter's insights from the China trip will feed into that.
It's about finding the right commercial approaches industry players can take as a combined entity to increase visitor numbers, he said.
"We're a small voice in a big market. The one thing I know for sure is that we had better get on song and hunt as a pack or our voices will be lost in China."
BioPacific Ventures Fund (biotech)
Dr Andrew Kelly is not the type of guy given to hyperbole but he said he was "blown away" by how well received the Auckland delegation was in China.
"The whole idea that a mayoral delegation can open doors has been absolutely confirmed for me, even though not many of those doors were opened for me."
Kelly is the managing director of BioPacific Ventures Fund, a $100 million specialist food and agriculture fund set up in 2005 by private equity company Direct Capital.
In his sector the main topic of conversation in China was on food, as the nation struggles to meet increasing demand for higher quality food products.
"There were a number of questions on how we could help them with food safety and quality and whether we had companies that could do that. They also have slightly chunky supply chains and were looking at the way we have smooth supply chains around the world."
While he received a lot of interest in the fund's companies, "it will all need follow up to understand the depth of that interest".
It was Kelly's sixth visit to China and it reaffirmed his view that the country will have a major impact on New Zealand.
"It's up to us whether we make more or less of that but it will have an impact even if it is only as a country we supply food to."
Flux Animation (film)
Sitting next to Flux Animation founder Brent Chambers on the return flight home from Shanghai, he was a tired but happy man. He's got a handshake agreement with a Chinese film group on a joint venture and has a number of other deals in the offing that will need to be followed up with a return trip to China soon.
One of his key objectives from the delegation was securing a Chinese service provider to either provide service work for or co- invest in his new Wiki the Kiwi preschool television series. He got a positive response from XYZ Productions on the series and it's also interested in formally co- producing on other future projects.
"There's a lot to be said for visiting people in their own studios and there was a genuine desire to collaborate."
Chambers said there's far more confidence than a year ago about getting Chinese government permission to show international programmes.
"Historically it has been very difficult to get international content on screens in China but XYZ think it is now entirely possible."
The China Film Group in Beijing has agreed to a joint venture on a couple of his ideas for new TV series - one called Fur Maids based on pandas and specifically designed for a Chinese audience and another called Jimmy Cook that Chambers is reluctant to say too much on at this embryonic stage.
One of the side benefits of the delegation, he said, was mixing closely with other Kiwi business people and he's now working with Unitec on training students in animation.
Manukau Institute of Technology (education)
The theme for the education sector on this trip was one of united they stand, divided they won't achieve as much.
It was the first time all six tertiary education institutions in Auckland were represented in one delegation and Dr Stuart Middleton, external relations director of the Manukau Institute of Technology, said being part of a mayoral-led delegation was invaluable.
He now views the sister cities programme as a potential framework for the whole education sector to work within.
"China is a big country full of New Zealand educational institutions charging all over the show and having relationships where they land. If we're seriously talking about contributing to Auckland's economic development we need an efficient education sector combining as one that will increase the profile for Auckland."
On the first leg of the five-city trip, the Guangzhou Education Bureau signed an agreement with the tertiary education providers to investigate ways of working more closely in future. The timing is good, Middleton said, because an Education Cluster Accord is being signed between local providers in June that will allow a united front on marketing.
It was Middleton's sixth visit to China and this time around he strengthened existing MIT relationships along with meeting potential new partners. Back home again though, the real work starts.
"We're now putting together a programme to enable us to capture the tremendous start given to us by the delegation."
Explore NZ (tourism)
On Explore New Zealand owner William Goodfellow's first trip to China he wanted to view first- hand what Chinese travellers want and what products his Auckland- based tourism company should be providing them.
The sailing company already gets a significant chunk of business from China, mainly achieved through an in-market sales representative, and Goodfellow is now more confident they're on the right track.
"But what we need to do is to scale up that effort and get more serious about our resources within China."
While there was plenty of opportunity to grow the visitor market out of China, it will take a while to develop leads from the delegation even with a second sales representative there, Goodfellow said. He's also likely to benefit from a new $200,000 luxury marketing fund set up by Auckland Airport and Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development, aimed at attracting high-end Chinese tourists to Auckland.
Being part of a mayoral-led delegation put Explore NZ and others in front of people they wouldn't have reached without that pull, he said. And in Guangzhou, there was an immediate win from the first tourism sector dinner. Tourism wholesaler China International Travel Service is bringing a high- end group of travellers to New Zealand on May 25 for a nine-day tour, and sailing on Explore New Zealand's boats has now been added to their activities. Goodfellow's optimistic it's the start of bigger things to come.
One of his other aims from the trip was talking to potential Chinese partners about establishing an America's Cup boat operation there. He was impressed with the Olympic Sailing Centre in Qingdao - site of the Olympic Sailing in 2008 - but said "finding a suitable partner is another issue".
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