Airport eyes Chinese visitors

ALAN WOOD
Last updated 05:00 30/01/2014

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Chinese visitor arrivals through Christchurch Airport during 2013 were 20 per cent up on 2012, new airport chief executive Malcolm Johns says.

The airport is targeting high-spending tourists on flights from China while it lobbies for direct services from the Asian powerhouse.

The Chinese New Year period, from January 31, is a prime time for travellers from China, says Tourism New Zealand, which also wants to boost "quality" tourists who can afford to travel to the South Island.

Johns is just a matter of weeks into the top management role at the South Island's busiest airport, having taken over from Jim Boult, who stepped down at the end of 2013.

Chinese international arrivals and departures through Christchurch Airport in 2013 totalled 31,030, up 19.3 per cent from 26,002 in 2012. The figures do not include those flying into the city on domestic flights.

While there had been a fall in Chinese arrivals into New Zealand for a period from October, partly as a result of the Chinese Government cracking down on organised "shopping tours", particularly into Auckland and Rotorua, Christchurch had enjoyed more Chinese arrivals during the same period.

Tourism New Zealand chief executive Kevin Bowler said the Chinese law change had seen "big changes in the makeup of the Chinese visitors", with fewer Australia-New Zealand dual destination tours and more tours solely of New Zealand by higher spenders.

"We're also seeing the South benefit at a faster rate than the North," Bowler said.

While the South Island got about 24 per cent of the Chinese visitor spend in the 12 months to December 31, that spend grew much faster in the South Island than the North Island.

"What we're seeing is more visitors from China coming just to New Zealand, with more time for New Zealand and, as a result, they're travelling further afield," he said.

More than 230,000 Chinese visited New Zealand in the year to November 30.

Research shows Chinese visitors to the South Island spend an average of $3400 a visit.

Christchurch Airport's plan for lifting the number of Chinese arrivals into the South Island through a "Welcome China" strategy was tracking well, Johns said.

Most direct arrivals by air to the city came via Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, and Singapore.

The airport company remained in continuing negotiations with both potential new airlines and those that already flew into the city to gain extra services to get "the most efficient air network to this part of the world that we can possibly achieve," Johns said.

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Chinese airlines it was talking with included China Southern, Air China and China Eastern.

"My very firm focus is on growing visitor numbers to New Zealand via Christchurch," Johns said.

"The process for building ultimate direct services, is you build awareness, you grow visitor numbers . . . to the point where you've got sufficient traffic to justify a scheduled service."

Christchurch Airport is expecting a special chartered 787 Dreamliner service to arrive on February 3. It is expected to bring about 220 Chinese holidaymakers from Guangzhou and the surrounding Pearl River delta.

It will be the first Dreamliner to fly to the city commercially.

- BusinessDay

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