NZ tourism looks to Asia

TOURIST LEAP: The surge in middle-class tourism in China and India presents a one-off opportunity for New Zealand.
TOURIST LEAP: The surge in middle-class tourism in China and India presents a one-off opportunity for New Zealand.

The tourism industry has its sights set on the burgeoning Indian market as part of a strategy to grow overall tourism numbers to more than 5 million by 2025.

Auckland International Airport chief executive Adrian Littlewood said the Indian middle class, which is growing at a rate of 50 million people a year, is among several "high opportunity targets" in Asia and South America.

Visitor arrivals from India have increased 23 per cent in the last three years to 32,000 for the year ending March 31, according to Statistics New Zealand.

Littlewood said at the airport's Asia summit that it aimed to increase that number to 119,000 a year by 2015.

The target was part of Auckland Airport's industry-wide strategy to boost tourism numbers by 6 per cent to 5.2 million a year, over the next 11 years.

"New Zealand must especially try to capture an increasing share of international visitors from the key 'high opportunity target' or HOT markets, such as Brazil, India, Indonesia and, of course, China," Littlewood said.

Air New Zealand's planned alliance with Singapore Airlines would target the Indian subcontinent with one stop via Singapore.

TravConsult managing director Trevor Lee said despite India having a population of 1 billion, only 15 million Indians travelled internationally each year, although the number and frequency of trips was growing.

New Zealand's adventure tourism industry could benefit, with two-thirds of travelling Indians looking for adventure activities, Lee said.

These tourists were keen to seek thrills outside India because of local operators' poor safety standards, he said.

Women-only tour groups from India had also grown in popularity, due to the rise in high-profile crimes against women domestically, Lee said.

Although still a niche market, accommodation providers could embrace that market by offering women-only floors and employing more female staff.

Linguistic differences also needed to be well understood by the tourism and hospitality sector. Some Indian visitors had an aversion to giving definitive "yes" and "no" answers and start sentences with "Tell me", Lee said.

Air New Zealand's strategy for rebuilding the high-value Japanese market was criticised at the conference.

Air New Zealand's head of Japan, Scott Carr, said the airline was aiming to double the number of passengers between Japan and New Zealand by 2019.

The number of Japanese holidaying in New Zealand has dropped from more than 155,000 in 2002, to 56,000 in 2013.

Without targeted marketing campaigns in Japan, tourism would rely on recommendations by past visitors, Carr said.

"Japan has 127 million people, let's not assume all of them have heard of us," Carr said.

But tourism consultant Pawel Grochowicz said Air New Zealand's "double Japan" strategy was perplexing, given it had dropped flights to Osaka and reduced the number of weekly flights between the two countries from 17 to seven.

Grochowicz said the surge in middle-class tourism in China and India presented a one-off opportunity for New Zealand and so money should be allocated towards those markets, at the expense of campaigns in Japan and Korea.

Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED) tourism manager Jason Hill said targeted spending in Japan could reap more rewards than money spent in China, "where a growing tourist market means people will come anyway".

ANZ Bank senior economist Sharon Zollner dampened enthusiasm for both Asia's emerging and mature tourism markets.

Zollner described Japan's economy as "a bug looking for a windshield" after years of quantitative easing and deflation while China was potentially headed toward a housing bubble and credit crunch.

Either would impact tourism numbers to New Zealand, she said. 

Fairfax Media