Chinese tourists 'evolving'

04:06, May 07 2012
Lily Choi-Lee
BE PREPARED: Chinese travel market specialist Lilly Choi-Lee tells Trenz delegates in Queenstown about the changing Chinese traveller, and the more than 1 million high-rolling millionaires who could turn up anywhere any time, ready to spend.

One of China's million high-rolling millionaires could turn up anywhere, any time in New Zealand and tourism operators should be braced, two Chinese market specialists say.

TravConsult husband-and-wife combo Trevor Lee and Lilly Choi-Lee, speaking at the Trenz tourism industry conference in Queenstown as part of an Auckland Airport program to help develop the tourism industry to be ready to receive Chinese travellers, said times and attitudes towards holiday-makers from the world's most populous nation had drastically changed.

"As late as 2010 Lilly and I sat down with the general manager of a Sydney hotel and he said 'I wish I didn't have to have Chinese tourists but I have to and they're just fillers who fill the beds','' Mr Lee said.

In two years that attitude, although by no means prevalent, had flipped, Mr Lee said.

"The industry is evolving, and we're really happy to see that, but the Chinese tourist is evolving as well.''

Chinese travellers were increasingly booking their own travel and travelling independently, blowing away the perception of a herd-mentality of travellers and becoming much more worldly.

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"In 2004 many Chinese had absolutely no idea or concept of Western customs but that has increasingly changed, along with their travel patterns.''

The newly emerging, extreme wealth of a huge amount of Chinese people was also something that people within the tourism industry could not ignore.

"There are over 1 million millionaires in China and many of them will think nothing of flying to Paris for the day to buy a Louis Vuitton bag, or to America to explore the Grand Canyon.''

However, many of the ultra-rich were also active and were taking their time, and spending their money on learning new skills and experiences.

"If they want to learn to swim, they will do so – the big difference is they will go to The Maldives to do so. And we know that many who've wanted to learn to ski have gone to Mt Hutt, and that is the way the Chinese traveller is evolving.''

The Trenz conference started in Queenstown today and will wind up on Thursday.

The Southland Times