2 Apr 2013

Tourism operators told to learn more about Chinese market

8:32 pm on 2 April 2013

An economist says tourism businesses need to focus on how to target the rising number of Chinese visitors to the country.

Official figures released last month showed on an annual basis visitor numbers from China rose 38% compared with February 2012, surpassing 200,000 annual visitor arrivals for the first time.

BNZ chief economist Tony Alexander says Chinese visitors are "above average spenders" and the strong New Zealand dollar does not seem to be putting them off.

"Although the number of Chinese visitors to New Zealand only makes up 9.2% of the total, their spending accounts for around about 13.6% of the total visitor spending in New Zealand, some $740 million when you include the visitors from Hong Kong as well."

He says while the bulk of visitors to New Zealand - about 40% plus - are from Australia they only account for maybe 20% or so of spending here as they're visiting friends and relatives and staying with them.

But he says Chinese tourists are mostly using hotels and motels, travelling in coaches and eating out - in all "a fairly lucrative business".

Mr Alexander says tourism operators really need to spend some time learning what the Chinese are specifically after - whether it is Maori cultural tours or the scenery that attracts them, what sort of quality of souvenirs and what sort of dining experiences are they looking for.

He says he has no doubt a lot of the work is being undertaken by the likes of the Ministry of Tourism but it is not an area that should be treated lightly because, as with so many other parts of New Zealand's exports, a large proportion of tourist revenue in the future is going to be coming from the Chinese market.

"It's going to have be cultivated; it's going to have to be understood a lot better and companies involved in that sector really need to ask themselves how do I target my business more and more - not exclusively but more and more - towards the Chinese visitor."