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From ‘xin xian’ to Weibo – understanding the Chinese FIT visitor

Understand your visitors' needs and be ready to capitalise on growing numbers of Chinese travellers to New Zealand as the market is set to provide the best tourism growth opportunity over the coming years.

This was the clear message from last week's webinar, "Latest Research & Insights: Chinese FIT expectations when visiting New Zealand" - presented by Tourism New Zealand's Senior Insights Analysts, Lucy Alborn and Bryce Kelliher.

The first in a new series of quarterly Research & Insights webinars, the session provided an overview of the latest research findings on what Chinese Free Independent Travellers (FIT) are looking for in a New Zealand holiday, and offered some insight into how domestic operators can make the most of the increasing number of Chinese visitor arrivals.

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With total visitor arrivals expected to reach 600,000 in 2021 (an increase of 116 per cent over the next seven years), there seems to be no end to the market's growth.

The main underlying driver for this increase is due to a growing Chinese middle class with a desire to travel - and a willingness to pay a premium for quality goods, services and experiences.

Bryce pointed out that a growing middle class had already emerged and what we will see is a "shift to the majority of urban China households moving into the upper middle class, underpinning future consumption, including travel."

The current Youth sector, now in their teens and twenties, will make up a large proportion of the FIT segment in future.

Statistics shown in the webinar pointed clearly towards clear growth of the FIT segment - in the year ending March 2014, Independent Holiday Visitors made up 20 per cent of total Chinese visitors. The same time one year later, the same group made up 27 per cent, a significant increase in independent travellers.

Not only are we seeing more FIT travellers in 2015, those considering a holiday to New Zealand are wanting to escape the constraints of organised tours - with Tourism New Zealand research showing that FITs dominate the China Active Considerer market, particularly among younger age groups (aged 30-49).

They see New Zealand as a place to flee the pollution of the city and their hectic lives, and are looking for a pure and clean escape. They have high expectations for clean scenery and unique experiences.

Based on the findings from Tourism New Zealand's Active Considerer research, Lucy made some suggestions for tourism operators to best capitalise on Chinese FIT travellers.

"Offer immersive experiences and perhaps most importantly, work with the premise of 'xin xian' in mind - where food is seen in its natural state, caught at the source, and the visitor is involved in the process of sourcing, preparing and cooking it."

Social media was another important element when attracting Chinese visitors, who are avid social networkers.

"People go where people post, it's that simple", said Lucy.

For more information, watch the full presentation or download the slides.