24 Feb 2020

Covid-19: Marketing to other countries won't cover China visitor shortfall, operator says

6:36 pm on 24 February 2020

Tourism operators says marketing to China needs to be a priority once the outbreak of Covid-19 is over.

A Chinese tourist wearing a protective mask waits at Sheremetyevo airport, outside Moscow, Russia.

Photo: AFP

The government announced $11 million to alleviate the impact of the novel coronavirus on the tourism industry last week.

Tourism New Zealand received $10m towards attracting people from other countries and the rest goes towards domestic marketing.

A travel ban on foreign travellers arriving from mainland China has been in place since earlier this month, cutting our second largest visitor market during peak summer season.

Nomad Safaris managing director David Gatward-Ferguson said marketing to other countries would not cover the shortfall from the Chinese market.

"There's a reason we're getting 200,000 from Britain and 100,000 from Germany - that's about the level of our visitors from these markets. Spending all our money at them isn't going to replace the 400,000 visitors from China," Gatward-Ferguson said.

His business has been hit by the loss of Chinese visitors.

He anticipated it would cost his business half to three quarters of a million dollars in lost revenue by the end of the company's financial year in March.

However, Gatward-Ferguson supported having the ban in place

"If they drop the travel ban now, it would have been pointless putting it on in the first place. Coronavirus is still spreading, it's still an unknown and it doesn't seem like a sensible idea to suddenly take it off. But yes, it will be costing our country a huge amount of millions and millions of dollars.

"They make up such a large number of visitors at this time of the year. The ongoing effect of losing those connections, losing the flights, it's going to be a long time before we're anything back to where we used to be."

New Zealand needed to show it was ready to cater for Chinese visitors as soon as it was practical, he said.

Tourism leaders said the travel ban was costing some businesses up to $50 million a week in spending.

Real Journeys general manager Paul Norris said it has been a tough summer so the industry could use some support.

"Clearly we get tourists from a lot of other areas of the world, and any support that the New Zealand tourism industry can get to attract other countries or even countries that still travel with us about getting more numbers or tours coming out of them is a good thing."

But he said the government and industry needed to prepare to market to Chinese visitors once the ban and outbreak was over.