Chinese tourists key to target

JOSH MARTIN
Last updated 18:17 24/03/2014

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High-value Chinese tourists are central to the tourism industry's goal to reach $41 billion in revenue by 2025.

That is according to outgoing Tourism Industry Association of New Zealand (TIANZ) chief executive Martin Snedden, who launched the industry's 10-year blueprint launch in Auckland.

The industry would focus on "growing volumes, but growing value faster", after some years during which average expenditure per tourist decreased to about $2300, Snedden said.

Of the $41b goal, TIANZ wants $19.1b to come from international visitors.

Industry players have all highlighted China as the prime target.

China generates $670 million in tourist earnings and that will double to $1.2b in five years, according to TIANZ.

A Chinese law introduced last year banning budget shopping tours supported the step change to target higher-value, independent Chinese tourists, the TIANZ report said.

Snedden said independent Chinese tourists stayed longer, travelled more widely and spent more than their tour-bus counterparts.

The public sector was working to improve visa and driver licence processing for Chinese tourists while tourism operators were improving their activities and products, Snedden said.

Air New Zealand chief executive Christopher Luxon said tourism companies would have to be proactive in adapting to the growing Chinese market, as the airline had on its Shanghai to Auckland services.

"We have bilingual flight attendants, provide a choice of Chinese or Western-style food and offer Chinese inflight entertainment options," Luxon said.

Auckland tour company founder Neill Sperath said his company, Time Unlimited, was already attracting high-end Chinese tourist groups and was always looking to enhance its products to suit their needs.

The company uses helicopters and a fleet of Mercedes vehicle for tours to Rotorua, the Bay of Islands, Waitomo and the Coromandel Peninsula.

Time Unlimited has an intern charged solely with researching the various niches of the Chinese market and Chinese social media websites such as Weibu, so it can adopt "Chinese-specific strategies".

"Our challenge is how we can best take advantage of this huge boost in individual Chinese arrivals, which happened as soon as they banned the discount shopping tours," Sperath said.

"We've quickly learned to offer Chinese catering, Mandarin guides when needed and to use hotel providers that cater to Chinese wishes."

Auckland International Airport chief executive Adrian Littlewood said the industry needed to see China as a series of market niches that were each large enough to boost New Zealand revenues.

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"In a market of 1 billion, a niche can be several million people strong," Littlewood said.

The airport has encouraged a marketing push into the Shanghai wedding market, and said similar niches could be exploited, such as the golfing or the gourmet food and wine markets.

Auckland International Airport is the arrival point for the vast majority of Chinese tourists.

Littlewood said it was easier for the airport to grow Chinese passenger numbers sustainably with existing airlines, like Air New Zealand, China Southern and Cathay Pacific, than by luring new airlines, although "the airport is always looking for new partners to fly here".


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