Japanese tourism boom anticipated after RWC

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Tourism bosses are preparing for a “game-changing” surge in high-spending Japanese visitors to Queenstown after the Rugby World Cup is over. 

Most cashed-up Japanese holidaymakers flooding in to the resort this summer will now stay at least three nights rather than two, going by influential Japan Travel Bureau’s newly-released New Zealand brochure. 

“It’s a game-changer,” Destination Queenstown boss Tony Everitt says. 

Everitt notes that Queenstown will “regrettably” benefit at the expense of Christchurch – JTB doesn’t feature any Christchurch stays after recent earthquakes destroyed most of its hotel accommodation. 

“But our wonderful operators have worked really hard to make sure that Queenstown picked up a lot of that opportunity rather than see it go somewhere else,” Everitt says. 

“Fifty per cent of the bed nights are now in the Southern Lakes region,” Everitt says. 

“And JTB quote their NZ business as being worth hundreds of millions of dollars.” 

Some group tours will still stay only two nights but many FIT – free and independent traveller – packages will stay up to four or five nights. 

Among new trends, many Japanese will start their tours in Queenstown, flying here straight after landing in Auckland. 

There will also be day trips from Queenstown to Mount Cook and back – the Japanese used to visit NZ’s highest mountain on the way from Christchurch. 

Everitt says the new JTB brochure is the first out for next summer, but he expects other wholesalers to release similar itineraries. 

Local Japanese travel marketer Yoji Kimura says the brochure is “most influential in the market and many visitors to NZ who don’t book with JTB check itineraries and trends”. 

A push for Japanese visitors to stay three nights in Queenstown started three years ago “but it is obvious that recent events in Christchurch have pushed the trend into a different level”, Kimura says. 

After several sluggish years the Japanese market to NZ lifted last summer between 10 and 15 per cent before being hit by earthquakes both there and in Christchurch. 

That market lift is expected to resume this summer, especially as Air NZ is increasing capacity on its Tokyo route by 20 per cent from December. 

An industry source expects Japanese numbers into Queenstown to range between 45,000 and 65,000 in the 12 months from this summer.