New Zealand: How might New Zealand attract more tourists from regional Asia-Pacific markets?

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Last week’s Trenz 2013 conference in Auckland (21-24 April 2013) which is New Zealand’s premier tourism trade event, was according to the Dominion Post,“[A]buzz with an extra $158m of funding for tourism, one of New Zealand’s largest export earners.” In this setting Alan Wood of the Dominion Post asks how New Zealand might lure more tourists from emerging markets?

The flow of visitors to New Zealand, firstly from China, and then from India and Indonesia, will become noticeably stronger, with predictions there could be one million Chinese annually landing on our shores within five years.

Wood posits that tourists from (China) the world’s most populous country have already become much more noticeable. But notes that some Kiwi tourism operators are sceptical that the Chinese numbers are increasing so quickly.

Tourism Industry Association chief executive Martin Snedden puts this perception down to too many businesses remaining too tied to the traditional United Kingdom, Europe and United States markets they have catered to for so long. However he also suggested that there are those who understand Chinese tourism a little better:

They [tourism businesses] have also been aware many Chinese tour groups have tended to visit just Auckland and Rotorua for three days as an add-on to a visit of Australia. But by providing better air linkages between China and New Zealand they will start to treat us as a mono destination.”

According to Snedden:

Many Chinese want to escape the intensity of the urban population. In many cities there is a lack of personal space and the presence of smog, making a trip to New Zealand feel like an out-of-this-world experience […] initially the industry should concentrate on winning customers from Shanghai and Guangzhou, given the existing direct air links to those cities with enormous populations.”

Snedden suggests that:

Operators should adapt to the cultural needs of visitors. For example, they should be able to greet in Mandarin or Cantonese.

He notes that:

While New Zealand is becoming more and more multicultural, we haven’t really been quick enough to embrace the Asian component of that culture […] It is almost like there’s quite a lot of people that have been a bit suspicious about the China potential and have not really been prepared to totally accept and believe it is happening, and that it’s going to grow.

It is better for the tourism industry to focus now on the Chinese market and use the lessons learned from that market to cater to other emerging markets such as India, Indonesia and South America.”

I find myself a little at odds with this position. Although I understand and agree with the idea that Tourism operators in New Zealand have change there approach to be more Chinese orientated, in order to meet the needs of this growing tourism demographic… a one size fits all approach will not do. I don’t share the opinion that providing for the Chinese market includes provision for other emerging markets…

That is overly simplistic and shows obliviousness to Asian diversity. No wonder we are not capturing the expectations of our Asian tourists.

It is my opinion that we just have to engage, engage, engage… tweak interest, and meet demand. Services aimed at the traditional United Kingdom, Europe and United States markets will not attract our Asian tourists…

As Don Mackinnon recently said…

New Zealand needs to become more Asia savvy

It is this simple.

Yao Chen in a stunning blue dress complimented with elf ears at the world premier of The Hobbit in Wellington, New Zealand (28 Nov. 2012) was an opportunity for a clever piece of integrated marketing.

Yao Chen in a stunning blue dress complimented with elf ears at the world premier of The Hobbit in Wellington, New Zealand (28 Nov. 2012) was an opportunity for a clever piece of integrated marketing. Source: http://www.koturltd.com/blog/2012/12/china-calling/

However I do find myself agreeing with the approach of Tourism New Zealand chief executive Kevin Bowler who suggests that:

One way to attract more Chinese tourists is to market New Zealand as an aspirational destination. This is being done at the moment by making a connection between the country and Chinese actress Yao Chen, who travelled to Queenstown in November to get married. The actress has 45 million ‘fans’ on Chinese social media network Sina Weibo, the largest following of any celebrity, having surpassed Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga.

Yao Chen is a way of projecting a really premium image for New Zealand. Her wedding here also projected an image around honeymoons and special occasions, which is very, very positive in terms of attracting high value types.”

According “Yonica Wu at Weber Shandwick Asia-Pacific:

“Yao may not have international presence of, say, Zhang Ziyi or Jackie Chan, but inside China it is an entirely different story. Yao is better known to China’s huge online community as the ‘Queen of Weibo’[…]   The makers of The Hobbit no doubt jumped at the chance of having Yao walk the red carpet and share those lovely Hobbit-branded photographs with her vast network of followers.”

Wu continues:

All in, this was a case study example not just of traditional celebrity endorsement but also the power of utilising online key opinion leaders (KOLs) in the China market. Yao’s fan base, as well as her personal and professional links to New Zealand (she held her marriage ceremony in the country earlier this month), made her a perfect choice to promote the new movie launch.”

Waiotapu, Rotorua. New Zealand. Source: Wikicommons

Waiotapu, Rotorua. New Zealand. Source: Wikicommons

Chinese buyer Wu Yandong, of Beijing China Travel Service, was at Trenz 2013 in Auckland this year to identify the best of New Zealand tourism products. Wu provided numerous key insights into the growing Chinese tourism market:

From two years ago FIT (free or fully independent travellers) and some special interest started coming. They’re into fishing, rafting, skiing or photograph taking […] Another Chinese favourite is Ocean fishing from charter boats with seafood.”

Wu points out that New Zealand has work to do:

More is needed in terms of quality accommodation, flights and promotion in China by Tourism NZ.”

He noted the disappearance of Air New Zealand’s twice-weekly direct Auckland to Beijing service in mid-2012.

Chinese social media expert Ken Hong says there is a need for tourism operators to better engage with China travellers via platforms like Weibo, the country’s version of Facebook or Twitter. According to Hong:

To capture more outbound Chinese the industry has to do a better job at telling the New Zealand story… including providing more digital assets such as web pages to enable the tourists to plan their trip.”

Like Wu, Hong notes the need for better infrastructure provided by New Zealand for accommodation:

From my perspective I’d like to see more hotels. The Chinese hotels are usually very good – four stars, five stars . . . so Chinese customers of course like those things as well.”

Milford Sound. New Zealand. Source: Wikicommons

Milford Sound. New Zealand. Source: Wikicommons

Some operators and developers have completely missed this brief… and have tabled proposals to build specialist hotels to cater exclusively for tourists from China and their cultural, food and language needs.

Vice president of the French Accor hotel chain Garth Simmons suggests that the introduction of “optimum service standards” at a range of hotels to cater for Chinese tourists is a better approach. Accor will introduce optimum service standards  which will include training and education of front-line hotel staff, the provision of particular foods as part of the breakfast buffet, and Chinese language television and newspapers.

According to Simmons:

There has been talk of building ‘Chinese hotels’ in New Zealand, but that is not what the Chinese market wants. They want a genuine Kiwi experience, but with services that make their clients feel comfortable.”

Ahead of Trenz, Prime Minister John Key made a pre-Budget announcement of an additional $158 million spending to attract tourists from emerging markets and more high-spending visitors:

The Government will spend $44.5m attracting tourists from India, Indonesia and Latin America. In the year to February 2013 Chinese visitors totalled 208,704, but Key has said that number could grow to nearly one million over the next five years.”

David Chalken, a country manager for Volcanic Indonesia, is, like Hong, a big advocate of using social media to bring in tourists from Malaysia and Indonesia.

There were 13 million Facebook “active user” accounts in Malaysia, 62.9 million in India and 47.1 million accounts in Indonesia.

One survey showed a key reason people were going into social media was to increase their company’s “reach, content and social awareness”. Another main reason, however, was to provide more efficient customer service.

I think you should be there basically to work with your customer one on one,” Chalken says.

A report from PWC 2012 report provides interesting analysis on capitalising on the rise and inter-connectivity of the emerging markets. Although it doesn’t address tourism per se… The report canvasses other demographics that are directly relevant.

PWC 2012 report provided analysis on capitalising on the rise and inter-connectivity of the emerging markets.

PWC 2012 report provided analysis on capitalising on the rise and inter-connectivity of the emerging markets. [Click the Picture to Download the Report]

According to the report:

“Rapidly accelerating growth and increased intra-trading across South America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East ( what PwC has termed SAAAME) is leading to a shake-up in the competitive environment for services businesses, both within the SAAAME region and beyond.”

“Capitalising on the rise and inter-connectivity of the emerging markets’ explores the most far-reaching of the developments facing [Financial] Services organisations worldwide which is the rise and inter-connectivity of the emerging markets.”

Figure 6 (PWC Report): Rising middle class.  Sources: United Nations Population Division; World Bank World Development Indicators and PwC analysis Notes: GDP per capita is in constant 2005 US$

Figure 6 (PWC Report): Rising middle class. Sources: United Nations Population Division; World Bank World Development Indicators and PwC analysis Notes: GDP per capita is in constant 2005 US$

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2 comments

  1. Pingback: Chinese Subsidies threaten survival of Western and Central Pacific Seafood Industry! | Green Fish Blue Fish
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