Tourism leaders in delegation to China

Graham Budd
Graham Budd
Southern tourism leaders will join their counterparts from around the country today on a fact-finding mission to China, the country which emerged this week as New Zealand's second-most important tourism market after Australia.

Destination Queenstown chief executive Graham Budd will work with Tourism Dunedin trade sales representative Gil Abercrombie and Christchurch International Airport's Destination South Island manager Dave Hawkey, formerly of Southern Lakes tourism operation Real Journeys, during the following week as part of the Tourism New Zealand delegation of 20 representatives to China.

They will team up with delegates including DQ international markets manager Ben Chapman and Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism general sales agent Amy Zhao, also representing Tourism West Coast, who are already in the country.

"The overall trip is about two weeks' long, which includes training of travel agents in four or five centres in Hong Kong, and I'm going for the back end of the trip," Mr Budd said yesterday.

"I'm going to be joining some of that frontline training up in Shanghai, just to observe, so my overall reason for being there is to listen and ask questions of the trade in China and absorb the opportunities.

"Ben is there doing the selling and training. I'm there to take a more holistic, or strategic view and try and translate that from a New Zealand opportunity into what is a Queenstown opportunity."

The visit dovetails with China International Travel Mart, a major travel show in Shanghai.

"My understanding is it's basically huge," Mr Budd said.

"While there's a trade component to it, it's mostly a consumer travel show. You'll have people from all around the world displaying their travel products.

"What that will allow me to do is understand what's being put in front of the Chinese consumer in terms of their travel choices.

"That will give some real perspective on how competitive the environment is and what our niche and opportunity might be in that mix."

China has become New Zealand's second-largest tourist market, recording a 37% increase in spending here during the past year.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's quarterly international visitor survey, released on Tuesday, shows Chinese visitors spent $555 million in the year to September 2012.

The spending put that country, for the first time, ahead of the United Kingdom which spent $545 million, but well behind New Zealand's largest tourist market Australia, which spent $1.7 billion.

Mr Budd said the Chinese tourism market was still emerging in Queenstown. Chinese often had shorter trips to New Zealand than other overseas visitors and converged on Auckland, Rotorua and the upper North Island.

"Some of it is getting to Queenstown and that will continue to grow, and one of the reasons for us being up in China training is to get the travel trade in China to start incorporating more Queenstown visits and content in the trips they are selling."

Mr Budd said he would share his findings at the next DQ member update in December.

The ministry's tourism research and evaluation manager, Peter Ellis, of Wellington, said in the past three years China had overtaken Japan, the United States and now the UK tourism markets to become New Zealand's second-largest, as forecast 14-months ago.

"The number of visitors from China has increased by 37% in the last year alone, and just as importantly, the amount they spend while here has also risen by 37%," Mr Ellis said.