China signals are ‘worrying’

Fears aired: Opposition tourism spokesman Todd McClay, left, with local National Party MP Hamish Walker

Amid fears over New Zealand’s valuable Chinese visitor market, the Opposition’s tourism spokesman claims the government’s not taking the relationship seriously enough.

Among potentially troubling signals, this week’s launch of the 2019 China-NZ Year of Tourism’s been postponed and travel warnings have been issued to Chinese visitors.

Senior National Party MP Todd McClay, visiting Queenstown this week, says “reports out of China are worrying”.

“I am concerned that the government are not taking some of the signals that we are observing, or at least the concerns being raised by China-NZ experts, seriously enough.

“The government’s got to ask why, after decades of successive governments building a relationship, it seems to have turned in a different direction so quickly, in just the last 16 months.

“My sense is that China are wondering about the degree to which NZ values and respects the relationship, and it’s incumbent upon this government to clarify that for them – it would be a shame if China was left wondering for too long.”

McClay warns that any dropoff in Chinese visitors, or fall in the rate of predicted growth, will have a major economic impact, especially in potential job losses.

Asked to respond, Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis maintains the countries’ tourism relationship is strong.

NZ remains a top destination for Chinese tourists who give the country a nine out of 10 in visitor surveys, he says, while data released last Friday shows visitor numbers grew 7.3 per cent last year to 448,000.

“We are not seeing any evidence to suggest that Chinese visitors are changing their travel choices based on political considerations.

“We are committed to China as a visitor market, and we want all NZers to support us in ensuring our Chinese visitors have the best possible experience while they’re here.”