A Queenstown-based family-owned retailer previously shut out of the country’s premier tourism trade show has finally been allowed entry.
Aotea New Zealand Souvenirs, which services mainly Asian visitors, joined 251 other NZ exhibitors at the annual Tourism Rendezvous New Zealand (Trenz) in Auckland this week.
Company founder Peter Hanson says it’s been frustrating tourism retail hasn’t been allowed to exhibit before.
His son Donald says: “[Prime Minister and Tourism Minister] John Key’s put much more of a focus on tourism retail while he’s been in charge and worked out, for the Chinese, it’s the second largest area they spend money on once they’re in the country.
“It is also a brand incubator for export – Comvita pretty much started as a tourist brand, as did Icebreaker.”
As high-end retailers, the Hansons say their presence at Trenz also backs the Government pitch for high-value tourism.
Donald says: “Other than their photos, a visitor’s tangible memories of a trip are what they take home.
“A bad experience can wreck a lot of future tourism into NZ,” he adds.
Despite Key talking up a five-fold increase of Chinese visitors to one million a year, Tourism NZ boss Kevin Bowler says: “It’s more about the quality and the aggregate number of days stayed and the spend.”
Bowler says a good sign is the percentage of Chinese visitors coming solely to NZ, rather than tacking NZ on to Australian trips. That’s risen from 20 per cent a year ago to nearly 30.
Bowler warns against jumping to conclusions that Chinese visitors aren’t into adventure products.
“One of the dangers with China is you look at the rear vision mirror rather than through the windscreen – someone wisely said to me, there’s a reason one’s bigger than the other.
“I was talking to a skydiving operator in Wanaka and he said it was their fastest growing source market.”
Bowler says there are also opportunities for products bridging the gap “between some of the extreme stuff and the really passive stuff”, citing AJ Hackett’s new Zipride at its Kawarau bungy bridge site near Queenstown.
Bowler says his recent visit to China, as part of a Key-led delegation, reinforced the need for more Chinese language signage and Chinese speakers in the local industry.
“Our mono-lingualism in NZ is something that’ll hold us back.”
More Chinese-appropriate food options are also important, he says.