Golden week expected for Chinese New Year

Chinese visitors Li Young (front) and Jiao Bing Qing look  through some of the photos they took ...
Chinese visitors Li Young (front) and Jiao Bing Qing look through some of the photos they took of Lake Wanaka. The pair from the An Hui provence in China are in New Zealand for about two weeks as part of their Chinese New Year holiday. Photo: Tim Miller.
All the signs are pointing to another "golden week" for Wanaka tourism operators as Chinese tourists pack into the town for Chinese New Year celebrations.

The golden week is the name given to the seven-day Chinese New Year holiday, which this year starts on January 28.

Figures from Tourism New Zealand showed in February 2015 there were more Chinese tourists in New Zealand than any other nationality.

Of the 310,000 tourists from China who holidayed in New Zealand from October 2015 to September 2016, about 43,000 visited in February.

Lake Wanaka Tourism manager James Helmore said he expected it would be another busy period but it was hard to know what the exact numbers would be.

"What we do know is we are seeing the number of tourists from China increasing across the year and the time around end of January-start of February is particularly strong."

Chinese tourists were moving towards more independent travel which Wanaka benefited from.

"In the past year or so we have seen a big shift in the Chinese market from group travellers to free independent travellers."

Wanaka offered a more unique experience than other tourism hot spots which meant tourists, not just Chinese, stayed longer and spent more in the town, Mr Helmore said.

Skydiving was the main activity for Chinese tourists visiting Wanaka but other activities were starting to attract larger numbers too, Mr Helmore said.

Skydive Wanaka general manager Blake Mason said February was generally the busiest time of the year for the business because of the influx of Chinese tourists.

"As I understand it, inside China skydiving is quite restricted so when they come over here on their holiday it’s one of those things they want to tick off their list."

As well as hiring two Mandarin speakers, the business  tried get into the Chinese New Year spirit.

"We normally try to go out of  our way a little bit to do something and put up a few Chinese decorations, and depending on what animal it is that year we do something with that."

Edgewater Resort general manager Mike Barton said China was the resort’s second-biggest international market after Australia.

"I would say  ...  we are only seeing the tip of the potential Chinese tourism market"

Visitor numbers in general had been increasing and Chinese tourists wanting  to book had to compete with tourists from other countries, Mr Barton said.

Aside from offering congee, a type of rice porridge, at breakfast the resort did nothing different for Chinese visitors.

"We try to offer all visitors a uniquely Wanaka experience ... I think that idea of Chinese tourists needing to have their needs specially catered to is a bit out of date now."

tim.miller@odt.co.nz

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