Catching the dragon's tail

Last updated 17:04 22/08/2014
Southland Times photo
EASTERN PROMISE: Strategies are in place to attract more Chinese tourists to New Zealand and the Southern Lakes.

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Mirror reporter Mary-Jo Tohill looks at the government's Tourism Growth Partnership projects and initiatives, to see where the Southern Lakes fit into the picture.

Tourism is a bit like the traditional Chinese school-yard game, "catch the dragon's tail."

Imagine that the children who line up are tourism industry members.

At the dragon's head is the New Zealand Government, and the game it leads is tourism.

The last in line is the dragon's tail, in this case China and the tourists New Zealand is trying to capture.

The dragon's head then tries to catch the tail by maneuvering the line around to tag the last player.

It's not a bad analogy for tourism, because it takes more than one player to play the game. But it seems clear that while the government will drive initiatives for the next four years in a $32 million partnership with New Zealand businesses to grow tourism, it wants the industry to eventually lead the dragon - and catch its tail.

It's the game southern tourism-meccas need to help New Zealand win, in a quest to attract more Chinese visitors, not just our trans-Tasman neighbour's 1.2 million Chinese residents, but people from China itself.

A solid move in the game to catch the dragon's tail happened in Queenstown ten days ago when a marketing workshop was held to get tourism operators enthused about encouraging more international Chinese visitors.

Led by Auckland International Airport's international market development manager Mark Frood, the tourism initiative "four seasons, five senses" was about capturing more of the Chinese market, to make New Zealand the holiday destination of choice for Asian travellers.

The concept which was launched at the Tourism Industry Association's TRENZ showcase held in May at Auckland, was based on intensive research about what Chinese tourists expect when they come to this country and "to understand what really pushes their buttons", Frood said. This was proving to be an immersive experience of all that New Zealand had to offer throughout its seasons, in terms of its landscape, culture, food and wine.

"We're targeting high-value Chinese people, who are relatively time-rich compared to the travellers we've seen before. They're going to be better travelled, and they will want immersive experiences to take home with them."

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Queenstown was "very much part of the New Zealand experience", Frood said, who until two years ago, worked for tourism service provider Destination Queenstown.

Operators from the West Coast, Otago and Southland, aimed to pool their knowledge of both New Zealand and China's festivals, customs, stories and the cultural calendar, to create a co-ordinated approach to tourism, he said.

The China market had been chosen because of the growth of independent travel to New Zealand, the air connectivity that now existed between the two countries, and the ability to target more effectively via trade and digital channels.

With this mind, a partnership had been formed between the government and the Auckland International Airport Ltd Food and Wine Cluster project, targeting Chinese tourists from Quangdong in China.

It began in July, attracting government funding of $1.11 million, with the industry providing $1.78 million. In the next three years, the partnership was expected to generate $81 million worth of benefits throughout the entire tourism sector.

Ngai Tahu Tourism's southern regional general manager David Kennedy of Queenstown said he could not comment on the partnerships, as they were commercial agreements between government and the private sector.

However, he said it was apparent from Tourism New Zealand marketing research that the Chinese market was quickly morphing from group tours to free independent travellers, "which is good as they are higher spending, longer staying visitors, and in line with what we are seeing in our operations in Queenstown."

Ngai Tahu Tourism would be looking at possible involvement in the Four Seasons, Five Senses initiative, as part of the Tourism 2025 framework and the aspirational goal to increase tourism's contribution to the New Zealand economy from the current $24 billion to $41 billion in 2025.

AUSTRALIAN CHINESE TARGETED FOR TOURISM

 

New Zealand's tourism industry struck gold recently, with several Government-led initiatives potentially worth millions of dollars to the economy rolled out in one day.

With all this feel-good Government funding you'd think an election was fast approaching.

All jokes aside, the Government's Tourism Growth Partnership programme has made $32 million available over four years to support innovative projects that will create new opportunities in the tourism sector, and will provide up to 50 per cent of the required funding.

In the first round of funding, the Government has given $4.49 million to projects.

Three of these include the Canterbury Tourism Partnership, Skyline Gravity Park (Rotorua) and, of particular interest to this region, China Travel Services NZ Ltd.

This collaboration between the Government, which has made a $50,000 investment, and New Zealand Maori Tourism, was a move that representatives hinted at during a recent visit to Queenstown, covered by the Mirror on July 30.

Australia was New Zealand's largest visitor market and there was untapped potential for a significant new market, our trans-Tasman neighbour's 1.2 million Chinese residents.

Australian Chinese were seen as perfect visitors to New Zealand "because they have higher educations and incomes than the average Australian, and are likely to have developed English skills".

The co-partnership aimed to create a promotional campaign to attract this market, along with their visiting friends and family, emphasising New Zealand landscapes, Maori culture, our food and wines, while connecting Maori and Chinese through their similar cultural values. The Government expected a $6 million return on its $50,000 investment by 2017.

The Auckland International Airport Ltd Food and Wine Cluster project also targeted Chinese, but from Quangdong in China.

Other partnerships included Orange Productions Ltd, Bachcare Limited, Select Evolution New Zealand Limited (a Christchurch Adventure Park) and, also of close relevance to Queenstown Lakes and the south, NZSki Limited.

This virtual platform targeted Australian visitors, receiving an investment of $450,000 in June, and was expected to reap a $196 million return in 2015-16.

- The Mirror

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