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Reflections on the Opening of the China-New Zealand Year of Tourism Event at Te Papa

I am sure that others will provide a more formal account of the event, which I suspect was somewhat truncated due to the recent events in Christchurch.

Indeed all the Chinese dignitaries made reference to that event and shared condolences and pledged help should it be needed.

So, no kappa haka groups, no dragon dancers, but a practical and pragmatic showcase of destination attributes and companies as to how business might be done between the two countries.

But also a sense of reality combined with aspiration. While mention was made of the past growth of Chinese visitors to New Zealand, the primary function of the China-New Zealand Year of Tourism was being described as a means by which the two countries could better learn about each other at the personal level of those “Kiwis” and Chinese tourists who interact with each other, and at a more formal level, the establishment of a working relationship between those involved in the organisation of tours, events, handling operations, and in general, the welcoming of visitors to each of the countries.

So, what other observations? It is noteworthy of how much progress has been made in a relatively short time in the response made to the growth of Chinese visitors and the changes in that market.

It was not that long ago that the Chinese market was perceived as a large volume, but little net value form of tourism built on the back of shopping tours and questionable retail practices.

Today, more than one speaker noted that the independent Chinese traveller accounts for 70% of Chinse visitors, and the great majority are between the ages of 25 to 35 years of age.

Alipay, Weibo, WeChat, Union Pay are all familiar items within our industry.

Also notable to were the numbers of Chinese staff now working in senior positions in New Zealand companies, so effectively bridging the gap between the two countries and equally in conversations many of these were permanently resident in New Zealand and many are now of a second generation of Chinese New Zealanders.

Truly New Zealand is a country of migrants! Reference was often made that 2019 is not simply one year of looking at China-New Zealand Tourism, but is confirmation of contacts made and a commitment to further growth of not just numbers of visitors, but of understanding.

Finally, two brief personal “takeaways” from the session.

One, I was able to reconfirm one potential research relationship and to make one new potential partnership. And a sense of regret that I could not take up the offer made by China Travel Service (NZ) Limited’s Lisa Li to be in Xi’an in September when Kapa Haka groups and the best of New Zealand’s Brass Bands will perform with actors, dancers and singers from Xi’an’s

Tang Dynasty show on the historic walls of that City – it just seemed to be a stupendous way to further confirm relationships between our two countries.

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