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New Zealand and China: A Renewed Era in Tourism Collaboration

Chris Ryan

New Zealand and China are revamping tourism collaborations as travel preferences shift towards immersive experiences.

As global travel rebounds, New Zealand and China are poised for a significant upswing in tourism exchanges. Both nations are adapting to evolving travel preferences and exploring collaborative opportunities to strengthen this vital sector.

Shifting Landscape of Chinese Tourism

Professor Chris Ryan (University of Waikato) sees a bright future for the Chinese market in New Zealand tourism. Increased flight connectivity and off-season travel promotions are expected to attract more Chinese visitors. Gregg Wafelbakker (Tourism New Zealand) confirms a shift in Chinese tourist preferences, with a growing demand for immersive experiences, unique destinations, and lasting memories.

China, previously New Zealand’s second-largest inbound market, remains critically important with over 200,000 arrivals in the past year. Wafelbakker anticipates sustained growth, citing rising flight availability and more competitive fares compared to six months ago.

Targeting High-Value Visitors

The increase in affordable flights coincides with the observation that Chinese tourists tend to be well-educated and have above-average disposable income, making them a highly desirable target market for New Zealand. This trend is reflected in their exploration of previously less-frequented regions, including road trips with stops in smaller towns and lesser-known areas.

Evolving Preferences: Cultural Immersion and Adventure

Huang Sihui, a local tourism provider, confirms this shift. Popular destinations include Hobbiton (The Lord of the Rings/Hobbit film sites), alongside activities like horseback riding in Queenstown, hiking at Mt Cook glacier, castle visits in Dunedin, and even hunting expeditions.

Another emerging trend is the popularity of study tours during China’s summer break, offering families the chance to explore New Zealand together. Huang’s company is capitalizing on this by expanding its study tour offerings.

The Power of Social Media Marketing

With Chinese tourists increasingly relying on social media for travel planning, user-generated content and influencer recommendations are playing a crucial role. Tourism New Zealand is actively leveraging these platforms through campaigns like “Escape the Heat and Head to New Zealand” (summer getaway) and “Slow Travel” (promoting off-peak travel) in partnership with Xiaohongshu (a Chinese social media platform).

Huang’s company is also collaborating with influencers on marketing initiatives to attract more Chinese visitors, diversifying their reach beyond traditional word-of-mouth referrals.

Reciprocal Tourism: Kiwis Explore China

With renewed flight options and routes, New Zealand travelers are also demonstrating a growing interest in immersive experiences within China. Lisa Li (New Zealand-based China Travel Service) recently led a group of travel agents to China specifically to promote the destination to Kiwi travelers.

Li highlights factors like modern facilities, immersive cultural experiences, and reasonable airfares as key attractions for New Zealanders. Notably, the ease and convenience of digital payment platforms like Alipay and WeChat were a positive surprise for her group, addressing a potential concern for cashless travelers.

Professor Ryan emphasizes the potential for increased travel from New Zealand to China, fueled by rising curiosity and a growing demand for business trips. He suggests a visa-free arrangement as a potential catalyst for further bilateral tourism exchange.

Beyond Tourism: Building Connections

The benefits of these exchanges extend far beyond tourism, fostering collaboration in education and trade. As Professor Ryan concludes, “It’s all about forging personal relationships, which lead to business and cultural connections. Friendly encounters are where the benefits truly begin.”

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Vicky is the co-founder of TravelDailyNews Media Network where she is the Editor-in Chief. She is also responsible for the daily operation and the financial policy. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Tourism Business Administration from the Technical University of Athens and a Master in Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Wales. She has many years of both academic and industrial experience within the travel industry. She has written/edited numerous articles in various tourism magazines.