Monday, May 27, 2024
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Hastings gets star treatment in China

No-one was more surprised to see a massive tourist bus in Guilin, China, clad in picturesque views of Hastings, than Hastings District councillor Kevin Watkins.

Inside the bus, televisions play videos of Hastings for passengers to watch. Emblazoned on the side are the words: ‘Guilin-Hastings Friendship Bus’.

Photos and videos of Hastings have spread far and wide across China over the last 10 days, after the Beijing launch of the Amazing China-Hastings Year of Tourism went off with a bang.

Dignitaries from across China and representatives from eight of the country’s major media networks gathered at the New Zealand embassy in Beijing on Tuesday of last week.

They heard how the Amazing China-Hastings Year of Tourism would help develop relationships and cultural understanding between China and Hastings, expanding trade and tourism opportunities.

Following the opening, Kevin headed to Guilin.

Guilin and Hastings have been sister cities since a formal agreement was signed in 1981 – the first such formal arrangement between cities of the two countries.

Kevin and Guilin’s leaders discussed initial plans for the 40th anniversary of the sister city relationship, now just 20 months away. "We had a very successful meeting with our sister-city counterparts confirming that both cities want to celebrate the relationship, and putting in place some timings around when we should discuss what that will look like."

But little did Kevin know, there was more on the agenda.
"They told us they had a surprise for us, and drove us to the tourism bus interchange, and there was a bus displaying our district. We were absolutely thrilled and honoured."

The Amazing China Hastings Year if Tourism will see more than 20 cities and regions in China exchange gifts with Hastings, with the Chinese gifts forming the basis of a competition for Hastings high school students, in the same vein as the previous Amazing China Face Race competitions. The China launch went exceptionally well, says Kevin.

“We had a marvellous response from everyone; the guests, media and the embassy staff. It was only the embassy’s second event in their new building, and they were rapt with how it went.”

Media coverage had been excellent, he says. “We’ve had television coverage, major newspaper stories and on-line coverage, including The Beijing News, Global Times, Hainan Television and a travel channel, showing off our beautiful district and the project.”

The Amazing China Hastings Year of Tourism is officially endorsed by the New Zealand Minister of Tourism Kelvin Davis, Tourism New Zealand, and The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. It is part of the China New Zealand Year of Tourism 2019, an initiative agreed to by China’s Premier Li Keqiang and the New Zealand Government in 2017.

On the official website, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the China-New Zealand Year of Tourism will “strengthen the already deep ties” between the two countries.
For New Zealand, “it is an opportunity to showcase to China what makes Aotearoa a world-class destination: Stunning national landscapes, unique experiences and products, and maanakitanga, our warm and friendly Kiwi welcome”, Jacinda says.

For Hastings, it is about building cultural understanding on which tourism and trade relationships can be developed, Kevin says.

“Given Hastings' strong ties with China – we were the first city to form a sister-city relationship with a city in China – it made sense for us to make the very best of this opportunity,” he says.

The district has strong economic links with China, through horticulture exports and international education, and many friendly-city relationships.

For more information, visit the official website:


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