Across New Zealand, cities and regions are making the most of the China-New Zealand Year of Tourism to boost people-to-people links and opportunities for cooperation.
The Sister Cities New Zealand annual conference, held this March in Palmerston North, included a session about the Year of Tourism. The conference was challenged to consider how cities and regions in Aotearoa can take advantage of the high-profile initiative and encourage two-way tourism through their Sister City relationships with China.
Speakers included Mr Hao Zhongwei, Deputy Director General, Department of American & Oceanian Affairs, Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (CPAFFC), who spoke about the importance of the many Sister Cities and long-standing relations between our countries.
Richard Davies from the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment talked about the opportunity to help boost tourism to the regions and in the off-peak seasons. Mayor Jim Boult of Queenstown also presented to delegates about his Mayoral-led Queenstown “China Tourism Exchange” delegation to China in October 2018, including Queenstown’s Sister City of Hangzhou.
In another session on Māori and Indigenous exchange, Daniel Walker, Deputy Chair of the NZ Māori Tourism Board, spoke about the opportunities for Māori tourism and the benefits this brings to both Aotearoa and our relationship with China.
Since the conference, several cities have taken up the challenge and arranged inbound or out-bound tourism-focussed visits.
The Wellington Xiamen Association arranged one of its famous “Citizen Delegations” to Wellington’s Sister City. 16 participants left Wellington on May 26th, and spent a delightful 8 days in China, returning June 4th. Much more than a mere tourist trip, the visit provided a valuable introduction to a varied group of Wellingtonians, while also signalling a continuing and genuine commitment to the sister city relationship - now 32 years old.
Eastern Bay of Plenty
Representatives of the three Eastern Bay of Plenty district councils visited Jiangxi Province in June, to formalise friendship agreements and forge trade, tourism and cultural ties.
Whakatāne District Mayor Tony Bonne says culture, tourism and education links will be a focus for the entire Eastern Bay, but the Whakatāne District is particularly interested in creating platforms to promote both regions as a visitor destination. “Tourism is a major economic driver in our district and we’d like to see that grow through travel in both directions,” he explains.
Palmerston North embraced New Zealand's ‘Year of Tourism’ with China, hosting it’s ‘friendship city’ Kunshan, from the Suzhou Region, for a visit in May which included a dinner themed around the CNZYOT.
This was attended by Palmerston North City Mayor Grant Smith, City Councillors, the Central Economic Development Agency (CEDA), as well as representatives from Rangitāne iwi, local tourism agencies and members of the extended Manawatu Chinese community. During the dinner, each city had the opportunity to present information, photos and videos about tourism opportunities in each region, and to celebrate of the long relationship between the two cities.
In March 2019, Hastings Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst and project director Councillor Kevin Watkins unveiled the Amazing China-Hastings Year of Tourism 2019 project. It complements the national China-New Zealand Year of Tourism 2019.
The Hastings project, officially endorsed by Tourism New Zealand, sees every one of China’s 30-plus regions invited to send Hastings a small ‘treasure chest’ containing something that uniquely represents their region. In return, Hastings District Council will send a gift representing Hastings.
The district has strong economic ties with China, through horticulture exports and international education, and many friendly-city relationships.