Solving Chinese puzzle

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If you’re wondering how 12 Chinese can equal one German, Tourism New Zealand chief executive Kevin Bowler (right) can tell you. 

The answer is ‘stay days’. 

The average Chinese visitor spends three days in this country while their German counterpart stays 12 times longer. 

Since the start of this year, Bowler has spouted the line that stay-days are the best means of measuring tourism’s value to the country. 

“It does two things,” he says. 

“It says, hey, don’t get carried away by the arrivals growth and don’t forget how important those long-haul tourists are.” 

The German market is a classic example, Bowler says. 

“Over a decade the German arrival numbers have only gone from the early 50,000s to the mid-60,000s but the total number of stay-days has gone from just over a million to just under two million.” 

What’s perhaps surprising is that despite total visitor arrivals increasing each year, total stay-days have remained static since 2007 – at about 20 million days. 

Long-staying European and American visitor numbers have dropped while short-staying Asians have increased. 

Bowler concedes it’s a bit disappointing that stay-days haven’t increased but he puts on his optimistic hat. 

“When you think that we’ve had a global financial crisis that really kicked in in 2008, you could argue that it’s actually pretty resilient. 

“We hope to do a lot better but it could have been a lot worse.” 

Bowler says the trick to growing Chinese stay-days – rather than their arrival numbers – is to promote NZ as a single-country destination rather than a three-day tack-on to an Australian visit. 

That also means Queenstown would see more Chinese, Bowler says, adding: “Since last summer, there’s a little bit of evidence that we’re seeing better-quality Chinese visitors – not in big numbers but I do think they’ll continue to grow.” 

Meantime, despite tough economic times in Europe, Tourism NZ remains committed to that market because it produces long-stay visitors, Bowler says. 

He told last month’s Holiday Parks Association of NZ conference that Tourism Australia was pulling promotional efforts in the UK, Europe and America and putting more into China. 

“I think they’re wrong,” Bowler said then. 

“Maybe they’re right for Australia. 

“But I think, for us, we’ve got our balance about right.”