Call to get the 'welcome' mat out

Last updated 05:00 21/03/2014

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New Zealand tourism operators should lay out the "welcome" mat, include compliments, and avoid cultural pitfalls to make the most of the fast growing Chinese visitor sector, an expert on China says.

Amy Adams, of Occam Consulting, has been based in New Zealand for about a year having relocated from years of living in Shanghai, where she advised multinationals on better ways to do business across a cultural divide.

Adams told a Christchurch audience there were still examples of Chinese or Asian travellers being discriminated against in overseas markets, citing an example in France.

She also cited an example of it in Christchurch when she arrived at the hotel.

"The woman checking me in, gave me a free internet pass. She said it would be a little bit slow this evening because we've got three groups of Asians here tonight.

"I'm thinking ‘wow, you resent having Asian tourists in your building'. This is not a good attitude to be having."

She said Chinese wanted to be respected as visitors and saying welcome would make a big difference.

"We want to use extra politeness and respect, this is a serious challenge that we might not admit to here in New Zealand."

Adams said the growth in China's middle and upper middle classes had been strong with an estimate of more than a million Chinese having wealth of £1 million or more. These "young" millionaires could be some of those out there looking at what New Zealand had to offer.

Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism spokeswoman Caroline Blanchfield said the challenge was to draw more Chinese visitors.

Blanchfield and Adams were speaking at a China Connections conference, organised with the help of Christchurch Airport, the Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce and Export New Zealand.

Adams said there were natural differences between Kiwis and the Chinese.

The Chinese, for example, were a heirachical society and those visiting New Zealand regarded themselves on a higher rung than those in the service industries helping them. This was a different upbringing to Kiwis, who were more egalitarian, wanting to treat everyone on an equal basis.

"They know heirachy, they know certain people are higher than others in the social system, we (in New Zealand) try not to think that way, but the problem is our Chinese tourists show up and they know in their heart of hearts they are higher in heirachy than the service provider who is a New Zealander, who knows in their heart that they're equal.

"So you can see some tensions that might arise from that."

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- BusinessDay

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