Chinese tourists' spending increases

ALAN WOOD
Last updated 09:41 13/08/2012

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China is on the verge of becoming New Zealand's second-largest tourist market, but the South Island is missing out on many of the Chinese visitors.

Spending from Chinese visitors jumped to $522 million in the year to June 30, 2012, from $410m in the previous corresponding year, an international visitor survey shows.

Produced by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, the International Visitor Survey showed that tourist spending was flat at $5.6 billion for the year ending June 2012, despite a 5 per cent increase in visitor numbers to 2.6 million.

According to trend lines, the outlay by Chinese visitors looks set to overtake that from British visitors, who spent $568m in the June 2012 year but have been spending less each year in the past three to four years.

The ministry's tourism research and evaluation manager, Peter Ellis, said China was the standout performer of the past year.

"In the past 12 months, spending across traditional markets like the United Kingdom and the United States has been flat. If it weren't for the Rugby World Cup in this period, we would have seen a decrease in total visitor spend of well over $200 million.

'However, expenditure from Chinese visitors increased by 27 per cent to $522 million. China is now our third-largest tourist market . . . China has already overtaken markets like Germany and the United States. It is now just a matter of time before China becomes our second-largest visitor market, behind Australia.'

Ellis said that in recent years, Chinese visitors had often tagged New Zealand on to a trip to Australia, visiting destinations like Auckland and Rotorua for three or four days after a 10-day trip to Australia.

"The China engagement in tourism here is a little bit different to a lot of countries. It's much more focused in Auckland and Rotorua, and on quite short periods . . . their median length of stay is only three days, which is quite a bit shorter than other people."

The ministry was doing further policy work around attracting Chinese visitors.

Christchurch & Canterbury Tourism chief executive Tim Hunter, however, said that direct arrivals into Christchurch from China had grown considerably. In the three months to June, the Chinese total was 150 per cent higher than in the previous corresponding period.

Since October, CCT had noticed a lot more independent travellers (individuals, young people, couples) visiting Christchurch and the region, and further work had to be done to make sure their needs were met.

"We're seeing more of them in our visitor centre, which is good because they tend to spend a week or more in the South Island and they are buying a lot of visitor activities as well. They're very different from the Chinese groups flooding into Rotorua."

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CCT and its Christchurch tourism partners (including the airport) had budgeted $30,000 this year for the Chinese market. Funding was needed to educate tourism operators in Canterbury on how to treat the visitor from China.

"They have high expectations. The quality of food is very important and they want Chinese food . . . quality shopping."

- The Press

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