Feature: Unlocking Future of New Zealand-China Tourism Exchanges

(Xinhua) 11:10, June 07, 2024

WELLINGTON, June 7 (Xinhua) -- As the world gradually recovers from the pandemic, the tourism industry is poised for a significant transformation. The future of New Zealand-China tourism exchanges is promising, with both countries adapting to evolving travel trends and exploring new opportunities for collaboration.


Professor Chris Ryan from the School of Management and Marketing Operations at the University of Waikato is optimistic about the future of the Chinese market for New Zealand's tourism industry.

He believes that the increase in flights between the two countries and campaigns to promote New Zealand for off-peak season travel will help attract Chinese tourists.

Gregg Wafelbakker, general manager Asia at Tourism New Zealand pointed out the post-pandemic shift in travel preferences of Chinese tourists.

"(Chinese) visitors are looking for more immersive travel, looking for more unique destinations and looking to create more lasting memories," said Wafelbakker.

China was New Zealand's second-largest visitor market after Australia before the pandemic. It remained a critically important visitor market for New Zealand with over 200,000 arrivals in the past 12 months, said Wafelbakker.

"We hold a view that the growth from China will certainly continue for sure. We're seeing that month on month. We're seeing continued growth," said Wafelbakker.

The increase in flights between New Zealand and China has resulted in recent flight fares being much cheaper than they were six months ago. New Zealand usually ranks among the top five destinations that Chinese travellers wish to visit.

Additionally, there is an observation that Chinese travellers visiting New Zealand are well-educated and have above-average incomes, making them the target group New Zealand wishes to attract, said Ryan.

As a result, Chinese tourists are now exploring the parts of New Zealand that were less visited before, with road trips including stops in smaller towns and lesser known regions. Cultural activities such as visiting hotspots featured in famous films and engaging with traditional Maori culture, and adventure activities such as camping, hiking, and cycling, are all gaining popularity.

Huang Sihui, a local tourism service provider echoed the trend observed. She identified Hobbiton, a tourist destination used for The Lord of the Rings film trilogy and The Hobbit film trilogy as the most popular among her customers. Horse riding in Queenstown, hiking at Mt Cook glacier, castle visit in Dunedin, and even hunting, have become increasingly popular among Chinese visitors, according to Huang.

Another unique trend observed is the increasing popularity of study tours during China's summer school holidays, providing an opportunity for both children and parents to explore New Zealand, according to Wafelbakker.

Huang's company is also exploring opportunities around study tours which have become a growing business for the company. "The study tours coincide with our off-peak season operation. We started to promote the study tour last year and it is doing well," said Huang.

As more Chinese visitors are relying on social media platforms for travel planning, with user-generated content and recommendations playing a significant role, tourism service providers in New Zealand are also catching up with the new trend and utilizing these new platforms to promote their products.

Tourism New Zealand has recently launched social media campaigns with social media partners. A social media campaign called "Escape the Heat and Head to New Zealand" highlighted New Zealand as a refreshing summer getaway.

The "Slow Travel" campaign, in partnership with Xiaohongshu (a Chinese social media platform), focuses on off-peak travel trends, said Wafelbakker.

Huang's company is working with influencers on marketing projects aiming to attract more Chinese visitors. "Usually, we have customers coming to us by word of mouth. But we are now also trying marketing campaigns through different platforms and channels to diversify," said Huang.


On the other front, with the flights between the two countries continuing to resume and new route options on offer, New Zealand tourists are increasingly interested in exploring China in a much more immersive way.

Lisa Li, managing director of New Zealand-based China Travel Service, has just led a group of New Zealand travel agents to China, with the intention of promoting China among Kiwi travellers.

"People are impressed by the facilities and the immersive cultural experiences that many tourist destinations can provide. Reasonable flight fare, Chinese food and immersive experiences are believed to be attractive to New Zealand travellers," said Li.

While in China, Li's group was amazed by how convenient payments can be made through digital platforms.

"People previously thought the payment might be a pain point, until they found that they could easily use their credit card on digital platforms such as Alipay and WeChat. Hassle-free and very convenient. This gives assurance to many New Zealand travellers," said Li.

Ryan also highlighted the potential of more New Zealanders traveling to China, citing an increasing curiosity among New Zealanders about China, and a stronger demand for business trips to China. He suggested that a visa-free arrangement between the two countries would boost travel from New Zealand to China.

"The benefits of bilateral tourism exchanges extend beyond the tourism industry; they spill over into education and trade," said the professor.

"It's all about getting to know each other and forging personal relationships, which then lead to securing further connections such as business and cultural exchanges. Friendly encounters are where it all begins and where the benefits abound."

(Web editor: Zhang Kaiwei, Liang Jun)


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