Air NZ tourism market flies ahead buoyed by soaring Chinese visitor arrivals
Air New Zealand is taking projections of a million plus annual Chinese visitors in its stride
In 2015, some 355,904 Chinese visitors came to New Zealand. That is effectively triple the 122,000 visitor arrivals in 2010.
The rate of growth places Air NZ in a strong position to capitalise on the desire of increasing numbers of China's middle class to "see the world".
The national flag carrier is three months into its codeshare arrangement with one of China's 'Big Three' airlines.
"It's fantastic to have cemented our partnership with Air China that now sees us accessing Beijing directly," says Stephen Jones, Chief Strategy, Networks & Alliances Officer of Air NZ. "We are seeing tremendous growth across all the China ports - Shanghai, Beijing and Hong Kong - which is also important for growth out of Southern China."
While China Eastern has now joined China Southern on the NZ-China route, Jones says Air NZ sees their participation as growing the market rather than posing a competitive threat.
"For us that has led to increased performance. We've got better loads, we've got good yields. It really is about raising the awareness of New Zealand and tapping into a a huge market for visitors. So far, it has been really positive, actually."
Air China has a global procurement system but it currently doesn't include New Zealand suppliers.
StatisticsNZ figures show that annual Chinese visitor expenditure has increased four-fold from $400 million in 2010 to $1.67 billion in 2015.
Chinese visitor average spend per day has also been trending higher from $234 in 2010 to $464 in 2015, while Japanese average spend has fallen from $400 to $132 over that same period.
Optimism about the market's potential was on display in China a fortnight ago, when Auckland Airport CEO Adrian Littlewood met with Jia Tiesheng, Air China's vice-chairman (commercial committee), to sign an agreement aimed at boosting tourist numbers to New Zealand in the winter months.
Littlewood told the Herald that snow sports are a "fairly new emerging market in China". With China set to host the 2022 Winter Olympics, interest in snow sports was growing.
Tourism is now the country's number one export earner, overtaking dairy where earnings have taken a punishing through the lengthy commodities slump.
The tourism sector has set a target to reach $41 billion in total revenue by 2025, up from the $29.8 billion netted in 2015.
The 2025 strategy focuses on high value Chinese visitors - among other key targets like international students, cruise visits, business events and emerging markets.
StatisticsNZ figures show that of the 355,904 Chinese visitors recorded in 2015, 272,464 were here on holiday; 40,512 were visiting friends and relatives; 13,232 were on business; 7616 for educational purposes and 1808 travelled down to New Zealand for conferences or conventions.
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