This was an increase of 38 per cent year-on-year, seeing China overtake our traditional long-haul markets of the UK and USA for the first time.
Arrivals from China have increased steadily since 1999, when New Zealand gained Approved Destination Status (ADS) which cleared the way for Chinese tour groups to visit.
The on-going potential from this market is clear. However, in order to realise the benefits this market offers to the tourism industry there are some unique challenges to overcome - primarily increasing the length of stay and the number of activities and experiences Chinese visitors partake in while they are here.
Currently, most Chinese tourists visit New Zealand for three days as part of a tour group on a dual-destination package that also goes to Australia. However, tourists travelling independently, or who come on New Zealand-only tours, are increasing in number and value. These travellers generally spend far more time here; visit more regions, have more discretionary spending power and enjoy a higher quality experience.
It is on the back of this that Tourism New Zealand has initiated its Premier Kiwi Partnership (PKP) programme, developed to generate greater value from the burgeoning Chinese market by targeting those travellers likely to spend more time and money on visits to New Zealand.
Under the programme we are working with 12 selected inbound tour operators and 18 China-based travel sellers to develop and market innovative packages offering longer-stay, higher-quality itineraries in New Zealand. The programme will be complimentary to the work already underway in the FIT market in China, and will further cement New Zealand's market position as a desirable, high-value destination.
Through PKP and our other China marketing initiatives, we aim to change the nature of holidays taken by Chinese visitors and the contribution they make to the New Zealand economy.
We have set some specific targets. By 2016 we want to: increase the proportion of 'premium' ADS visitors from 12 per cent to 30 per cent of total ADS visitors; increase the proportion of FIT visitors from 12 per cent to 25 per cent of total visitors to New Zealand; and increase the average number of 'stay days' from 6 to 8 days.
Over the coming months we will start to work directly with the IBO's and China-based travel sellers in market and will keep you updated on our progress. In the meantime, you can find more information on PKP and a list of the programme partners in New Zealand in the PKP section on our corporate website.
First published in Inside Tourism: 23 January 2013, issue 913