Don’t sell us short to the Chinese influx

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As Queenstown braces for a Chinese tourism invasion, Philip ‘Scoop’ Chandler hits the Far East where he catches up with Tourism New Zealand’s Mr Asia

Queenstown operators shouldn’t drop their prices to try to win business from the fast-growing Chinese visitor market. 

So says Tourism New Zealand Asia boss Mark Frood. 

Shanghai-based Frood, who’s had two stints as Destination Queenstown marketing manager, recommends operators offer value for money. 

“If you’re going to play the game on price, ensure you’re bundling product so you can offer a deal here but then maximise yield somewhere else.” 

Operators should also “roll up their sleeves” to grab a slice of the Chinese market. 

“Don’t let it come to you.” 

Till now, fewer than 30 per cent of Chinese travellers to NZ – 114,000 for the 12 months to August – make it to Queenstown. 

The resort will get a fairer share as more Chinese, especially those 29 to 45, travel independently, often by rental cars, Frood says. 

“Our goal is to position NZ as one of the premier independent or small-group travel markets on the planet. 

“The potential of the Chinese market is phenomenal – our focus is to get the cream off the top of it. 

“At the moment, because of the North Island having so much exposure, the South Island is probably the area where travel agents are looking at more products.” 

Feedback from Queenstown and the South Island is very favourable, Frood says. 

“Queenstown really gets into their soul, as does the South Island.

“With the young travellers, they don’t know too much about some of the adventure activities but when they’re exposed to them they’ll do them, even to the point of bungy jumping.” 

Tourism NZ spends almost $10 million a year marketing to China. 

“Our mandate’s about getting the maximum return for NZ and the investment we put in.” 

Specifically, it’s drilling down on 16 million Chinese it calls “active considerers”. 

They’re in China’s growing middle class who have more to spend on travel with their Government taking more care of their health and education. 

Although young Chinese learn English, Frood suggests operators should employ Chinese-speaking staff. 

Hotels could recruit some of the many young Chinese graduating from NZ universities: “They understand NZ and they understand the Chinese. 

“We might say a sentence and think we’re positioning the product well, but when it’s translated it’s just garbage.”
Beijing-based outbound operator Simon Sun thinks it’s not enough for Tourism NZ to just promote the country. 

“The airlines, Tourism NZ, tour operators and Chinese companies should work very closely to provide product to stimulate travel.” 

Chinese are seeking different destinations, and NZ fits the bill as it’s safe and beautiful, Sun says. 

Like Frood, he thinks local operators could provide more Chinese language information. 

Queenstown Airport could consider a Chinese information desk, he says. 

DQ could become even more active in the market, he adds.

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