9 Sep 2013

Claim NZ losing Chinese tourist share

5:38 pm on 9 September 2013

The next chair of Auckland International Airport says New Zealand is losing its market share among Chinese travellers.

Sir Henry van der Heyden, who takes over as chair from Joan Withers in October, told the New Zealand Shareholders' Association's annual investor conference the drop is despite the increasing number of Chinese tourists coming to New Zealand.

Official figures show that in the 12 months to the end of July, short-term visitor arrivals from China were up nearly 27%.

Sir Henry says growth in New Zealand tourism has been relatively flat, with visitors from Europe and the United States declining and the difference being made up by increasing numbers of visitors from Asia.

But he says New Zealand is actually losing its market share amongst Chinese travellers who would rather go somewhere else.

Sir Henry says there are many things New Zealand could do to make it easier for Chinese tourists to come here.

He says two of those things would be to make the process of applying for visas much simpler and ensure there are enough staff on the ground to ensure there are not big queues to get through customs, immigration or security.

Minister disagrees

Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse says New Zealand is not at a competitive disadvantage because of the requirement.

Mr Woodhouse says China is an important market and New Zealand has fair processes in place.

"Every other comparable country requires China to have a visa. I don't think we're any different and I don't think that's a competitive disadvantage as Sir Henry might suggest."

He says China has not asked the New Zealand government for be added to the visa-waiver list.