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Market Trends

The market is undergoing a shift towards Free Independent Travellers (FIT) as Chinese become more confident about organising their own trips and seek fresh, unique experiences.

Of the 215,040 holiday visitors in the year ending February 2015, some 73,000 were FIT (up 60 per cent on the previous year) while 144,000 were group (up 8 per cent). Independent travellers go to more regions and stay for longer. The average length of stay for a Chinese visitor is eight days.

Independent travellers are having a significant impact on the total value of Chinese visitors. By the end of 2014, Chinese visitor expenditure had broken $1 billion, and per person expenditure was second only to the long-staying Germans.

Chinese visit in large numbers in Spring Festival (Chinese New Year). In February 2015, there were more Chinese holiday visitors than from any other country, surpassing the number of visiting Australians, and equalling the total for Americans, Canadians and British combined.


With visitor growth forecast at high double digit rates, and the trend towards FIT set to continue, the outlook for New Zealand is extremely positive. Our strategy is to encourage the Chinese to travel out of peak periods and to discover the variety of sights and activities available across the country. This approach meets their need for unique experiences while relieving pressure on popular tourism centres at key times of the year.

Continued growth will, however, depend on delivering to increasingly high visitor expectations. The Chinese Tourism Academy (CTA), which surveys outbound Chinese tourists about their experiences in 24 countries, reported New Zealand as the number one ranking destination in 2014 in terms of visitor satisfaction.

Our challenge is to keep lifting the quality of our services to Chinese visitors to protect this enviable and hard-earned position.


China's GDP growth slowed to 7.3 per cent in 2014, and to 7 per cent in Q1, 2015 causing disquiet among some economic commentators. The government is attempting to re-balance the economy away from investment-led growth to a consumption/services-based model. It talks about the ‘new’ normal of lower and sustainable GDP growth, while promoting innovation and e-commerce as the way forward.

The services sector now accounts for around 50 per cent of GDP, well behind mature western economies, but up - and it is growing. Household incomes are also growing in the large cities from where New Zealand draws its middle class visitors.

In the absence of major economic upheaval, current economic trends should support further growth in visitors to New Zealand. Its appeal among the urban middle classes rests on natural beauty, cleanness and welcoming people – New Zealand is a place of respite from the fast-paced, smog-clad, crowded cities of China.    

Key Indicators

Exchange Rate:  1 NZD is 4.71 Chinese yuan (April 2015)
Expected GDP Growth:   +7 per cent (2015 estimate)

Data source:
www.xe.com (Exchange rates)

For more detailed information on the Chinese economy read the economic analysis in New Zealand Trade and Enterprise's China country brief.

Outbound Travel

The Chinese market continues to be predominantly dual-destination and most Chinese holiday visitors to New Zealand visit another country (usually Australia) as part of the same trip.

In 2013 Tourism New Zealand launched a new trade marketing initiative in China known as the Premium Kiwi Partner (PKP) programme. This programme continues to adapt to changing market conditions, in particular the growth of FIT and the increasing importance of online travel agents (OTAs). Today there are 19 outbound agents and 12 inbound tour operators in the programme. PKP partners commit to developing and marketing quality, mono-New Zealand tour programmes in return for Tourism New Zealand endorsement of itineraries and marketing support.


Under the Approved Destination Status (ADS) 96 outbound travel agents and about 34 New Zealand inbound tour operators are recognised. This means that these agents have a trusted partner relationship with Immigration New Zealand and Tourism New Zealand, which entitles them to fast-track visa processing (three day turn-around on a group visa and five days on a FIT visa). A list of the ADS inbound tour operators is available on this website. PKP partners are a subset of ADS partners.

Booking tickets online is also becoming more popular in China. Airlines are increasing their online sales and online travel agents, such as Ctrip and Alitrip are aggressively developing services for independent travellers.

Airline Update

Growing airline capacity provides improved access into New Zealand. Air New Zealand flies daily from Shanghai to Auckland year-round and China Southern flies daily from Guangzhou to Auckland and Christchurch. China Eastern plans to launch a year-round service from Shanghai to Auckland in September 2015 and Air China a new service from Beijing to Auckland from December 2015 as part of a joint venture with Air New Zealand. New Zealand is also well served by indirect services from Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Korean Air and China Airlines.