David Craig, Tourism New Zealand's General Manager Asia, was delighted with the strong support from both the industry and Chinese agents for Tourism New Zealand's premier trade training event.
"It is very encouraging to see the commitment from New Zealand operators to understanding what it will take for their business to succeed in China," he said.
Frontline training was held across Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai over ten days. There was an exceptional turnout with 96 per cent of the targeted agencies participating. A record 44 New Zealand operators travelled to China for the events to meet a total of 315 agents from all over China.
Kiwi Link is a core activity in China. It provides a platform for buyers from all over China to learn about New Zealand products directly from New Zealand operators in one-on-one appointments. It's also an opportunity for New Zealand operators to gather up-to-the minute insight into changing Chinese attitudes and needs.
This was the third year that Frontline training and Kiwi Link had been organised exclusively for China. Operators met with a mix of new agencies - 20 per cent of the total attendees - regular attendees and some specially targeted agencies in premium, FIT (Free and Independent Travellers) and the online business sectors.
"We tailor Frontline training and Kiwi Link to the market. It takes time to build relationships in China. However, once a trusted relationship is established, business results start to flow," says David.
To coincide with the start of Frontline training and Kiwi Link, Tourism New Zealand launched an official trade "wechat" account, which quickly presented as a useful channel to interact with agents and operators immediately prior to, during and following the events.
A base of 645 followers was quickly built up and Tourism New Zealand will continue to make the most of this channel in the future. The culmination of the almost two weeks of travel and meetings was a Gala Dinner on 11 November in Shanghai at which the 19 new Premier Kiwi Partners (PKP) were recognised. There were also representatives and speeches from the three airlines that fly directly to New Zealand - Air New Zealand, China Southern and China Eastern (from December).
A highlight was the performance from Te Puia's Kapa Haka group who delighted a packed ballroom with songs in Chinese and Māori. They had earlier performed powhiri to welcome the Chinese agents to each session of Kiwi Link.
"It's an intensive period for Tourism New Zealand staff, with Kiwi Link coming hot on the heels of Frontline training. But it has been designed this way to capitalise on the presence of New Zealand operators already on the ground, and to save costs."
What is Frontline training? Operators get together with travel agents to support them develop their knowledge of New Zealand and to help them become 100% Pure New Zealand Specialists.
Tourism New Zealand's premier trade training event Kiwi Link aims to provide both new and experienced tourism operators with the chance to develop relationships, and to sell to, key travel decision makers in strategic markets.