In 2012 Tourism New Zealand advanced their approach to developing the trade opportunities in China with the very first exploratory China Mission in Shenzhen, which I was fortunate to have attended.
Little did I know that the progress I was to make in developing our China market would be a slower process and longer road than I imagined and following two further visits into market I made alongside Tourism New Zealand as part of the traditional Kiwilink Programme, very little in the way of business eventuated for our organisation.
Fast forward six years later and we’ve developed a far deeper understanding of the culture, the language, the geography and pathways to develop meaningful partnerships in China with the result being China now represents our largest customer market and still growing.
So for me, the 2019 China-New Zealand Year of Tourism provides the platform to really advance our position in the China market as the leading adventure tourism brand.
We have already developed many of the key fundamental elements of our organisation over the past seven years to align with the growth phase experienced out of the China outbound travel market, but 2019 really presents itself as the year to more acutely align with the market as our two governments formalise a deeper connection.
We all know there is a lot of rhetoric in the media around perceived challenges that have emerged in recent months and much talk of an economic slowdown in China.
We do however need to keep in perspective that many Chinese visitors to New Zealand are generally less susceptible to a financial easing than the greater population and the trend toward longer staying, higher yielding FIT’s actually counteracts the exposure the industry would have had when it was more weighted to the larger group series segment.
Knowing the 2019 China-New Zealand Year of Tourism was upon us, together with Destination Queenstown and Queenstown Mayor Jim Boult, we took an active role in going over to China in October 2018 as part of a sister city visit to Hangzhou that also included some very productive and in-depth trade visits to a few of our key trade partners in Shanghai, Hangzhou and Chengdu.
Another initiative we have developed in recent months to align with the 2019 China-New Zealand Year of Tourism included recruiting and developing one of the most China-ready teams across our industry, right from the front-line staff that first welcome visitors, through to our more operational based team members.
Further steps we have taken in terms our people development is sending some of our English speaking staff on an intensive Mandarin language training course, so we build a truly capable China-friendly team more widely across our organisation.
In terms of another trend any organisation that works extensively within the China Market will be facing is the growing need to adopt E-Payment solutions. Having been the very first Adventure Tourism company to offer China Union Pay some years ago, it has been a critical focus to extend our payment solutions to now offer AliPay.
As passenger safety is one of most significant priorities we have also revisited how we communicate key safety information and dramatically increased our communication touch points along our customer journey, the below image is just one demonstration of key safety information being provided in Mandarin.
Finally, one of the other significant steps we have taken to align with the China/New Zealand Year of Tourism 2019 is to invest and develop activity in combination with wider industry partners. Some of these activities include working directly with the airlines that service China, both Christchurch and Auckland International Airports, Financial Service Providers, Chinese Media Outlets, Tourism New Zealand, Destination Queenstown, Lake Wanaka Tourism and a number of key Chinese trade partners.
So, as you can tell, the 2019 China-New Zealand Year of Tourism is simply a platform to align with and as an industry I think it is incredibly important we take steps ourselves to support the initiative because without our wider industry participation and engagement it is just an agreement and intention – the onus is on us as an industry to ACT !
Derek Melnick is the Business Development Manager for ExperienceCo(external link). For all your skydiving needs, check out NZONE Sky Dive(external link), Sky Dive Wanaka(external link) or Skydive Southern Alps(external link).