2 Feb 2016

Tourism boost for Chinese New Year

5:56 am on 2 February 2016

The tourism sector is gearing up for what is expected to be a record number of Chinese tourists arriving to celebrate the Chinese New Year.

The campaign will focus on New Zealand's scenic attractions.

Several hotels near Lake Wanaka (pictured) said they were booked out for next week. Photo: 123RF

Between 70,000 and 75,000 Chinese are expected to visit New Zealand in February - a 35 percent increase on last year.

A poster produced by Canterbury Tourism welcomes visitors for the 2016 Chinese New Year.

A poster by Canterbury Tourism for Chinese New Year 2016 Photo: SUPPLIED

The Chinese New Year begins on Monday and that week, known as Golden Week, is set to be the busiest.

Canterbury Tourism chief executive Tim Hunter said the visitors would spend an average of eight days travelling the country, predominately in the South Island.

"We're seeing huge increases, particularly this year because of increased air capacity from China directly into Auckland and Christchurch. We've had 35 percent increase in the last year and it looks like we are going to break all of [our] records again in the next few months."

Mr Hunter said Chinese tourists were increasingly travelling independently from tour groups, instead opting to hire cars and make their own way around.

They were also dispersing more, travelling to smaller towns like Hanmer Springs and Akaroa, he said.

"Over the Chinese New Year period, we are getting really big volumes - and it can get overwhelming on some days but, across the year, it is not a problem. I think the smaller towns embrace the Chinese because they are a new market. It's a growing market and it spends well."

Real Journeys, which runs tours at Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound, had certainly experienced a surge in bookings for Golden Week. The company's chief executive, Richard Lauder, said they had the capacity to cope.

'We tend to encourage people to go on our tours out of our peak times. Because the tour buses travel from Queenstown, there is a rush between 12pm and 2pm - so I think people adapt to the fact if the boat is full at 1pm then they have to go on the 3pm tour.

"The Chinese market is very important. When there was a drop in the European market during the market crash, the Chinese still came - but the positive now is the European and US markets are growing strongly as well, so tourism is experiencing a boom."

Celebrations for the Year of the Snake in February 2013 in Wellington

Celebrations get under way for the Year of the Snake in February 2013 in Wellington. Photo: 123RF

Mr Lauder said they had about 30 staff who could speak Mandarin, and they took the time to decorate the buses in traditional Chinese New Year fashion.

"We get great feedback from the Chinese tour operators. They enjoy the authentic New Zealand experience; they love our blue sky and wide open spaces. We take them up to Cadrona - for them, to stand on top of the mountain is a great experience."

Several hotels in Queenstown and Wanaka said they had been booked out for Golden Week for months.

Wanaka's Edgewater was one of them, with spokesperson Trish May saying a lot of work went into making the tourists feel welcome.

"We cater for them with specific things on our menu, and decorate the hotel for Chinese New Year. Also, most of our staff have been through some form of Chinese cultural training."

Local businesses ran off the tourism industry so any strain on resources during busy periods was outweighed by the positives, Ms May said.

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