China tourist potential yet to be tapped

SARAH DUNN
Last updated 13:00 28/02/2014
chinese tourists
MARTIN DE RUYTER/FAIRFAX NZ

WELCOME MAT: Nelson Regional Economic Development Agency chief executive Bill Findlater with Jianghong Fan, left, economy and commerce consul at the Chinese consulate in Christchurch, and vice-consul-general Xin Li.

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Nelson can expect to see more young Chinese tourists who can speak good English and are free to travel independently - but first, it will have to let them know the region exists.

Vice-consul-general Xin (Nick) Li and economy and commerce consul Jianghong (Frank) Fan of the Chinese consulate in Christchurch, are visiting Nelson this week to support bilateral relations between the region and China.

Mr Li said nearly 75,000 Chinese tourists came in and out of the South Island via Christchurch's international airport last year.He said this was a huge increase on visitors reported in 2012.

A Chinese law change in October last year meant it was now easier for tourists to visit New Zealand without signing up to tour groups and Mr Li said he expected "DIY" Chinese travellers to become a more common sight.

Nelson's relative lack of Chinese-language signage and infrastructure would pose little problem for independent tourists as they tended to be younger, coming to New Zealand with years of English lessons behind them, he said. English was now taught early and well in Chinese schools.

He said a bigger issue for Nelson was developing a strategy to lure Chinese tourists away from internationally well-known sightseeing spots such as Queenstown, Mt Cook, Christchurch and Milford Sound.

"The problem is, how to make Nelson more famous in China?"

Mr Li said Marlborough was becoming increasingly well-known in China due to the rising popularity of its sauvignon blanc wine. He felt this would bring some advantages to Nelson because of the area's proximity.

"Surely I think it will take some time for more and more Chinese tourists to come to Nelson."

New Zealand wine exports to China were dramatically increasing, he said.

Nelson Regional Economic Development Agency chief executive Bill Findlater said Nelson wineries were supplying Chinese interests.

He said Nelson honey was another commodity sought after, while Mr Li added that local dairy and timber products were popular exports. He emphasised education as an important link, praising the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology's work in making Chinese students welcome.

"Education, tourism, dairy products and the wine industry - Nelson has all kinds of participation in these, which is very encouraging to see."

Figures released by Statistics New Zealand yesterday said New Zealand's exports to China in January were worth $1.2 billion, more than twice the value of goods exported to Australia. A record 30 per cent of New Zealand's total exports headed to China last month.

Our top exports to China in 2012 were dairy products, wood, meat, wool, fish and seafood and wood pulp.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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