International tourists who take part in Maori cultural experiences spend more and stay longer on average Maori culture is creating an entree for New Zealand businesses into the lucrative Chinese market.
New Zealand Maori Tourism (NZMT), which represents more than 200 Maori tourism operators, was the only New Zealand presence at the China (Guangdong) International Tourism Industry Expo in 2011 and 2012, which attracted up to 500,000 people over three days, including 80,000 trade buyers.
"Exhibiting at the expo meant we could use Maori story-telling with its close links to the land to add depth to New Zealand's promotion of our landscape," NZMT chief executive Pania Tyson-Nathan says.
Tourism businesses promoted at the two expos included Kaikoura Whale Watch; Magnetic South, which provides tailored travel experiences; Footprints Waipoua, the Northland Kauri tree experience; Pa Harakeke Wilderness Adventure Park, and Wairakei Terraces and Thermal Health Spa, both in the central North Island.
NZMT also partnered with Tourism New Zealand, New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, Immigration New Zealand and Te Puni Kokiri to create a one-stop shop for Chinese people who wanted to holiday in, or do business with, New Zealand.
Choosing the Guangdong expo was a strategic decision, Tyson-Nathan says.
"Our research indicated the Cantonese spend more of their discretionary income on International travel.
"It also made sense to build on the relationship with China Southern Airlines, which provides direct flights to New Zealand.
"China Southern made sure their stand was next to ours, so we could jointly promote New Zealand, and it helped cement the relationship between the airline and Kaikoura Whale Watch."
Performances by the Patea Maori Club helped ensure the stand's popularity.
"The kapa haka performances and energy we were able to generate meant we were the only stand filmed by a local television channel, which attracts up to 10 million viewers," Tyson-Nathan says.
"Because of our profile, our then chairman Glen Katu was also asked to address a trade buyers networking event, attended by about 500 trade buyers from Guangdong and the Pearl River Delta area.
Maori tourism fast facts
Chinese tourists are the most likely group of visitors to partake in Maori cultural experiences
Nearly two-thirds (65 per cent) of Chinese visitors took part in Maori cultural experience
For overseas visitors, Maori culture is the second reason, after the landscape, that attracts them
Maori tourism is one of the fastest-growing sectors of the New Zealand industry
Maori tourism businesses are evolving to combine traditional culture with contemporary experiences
Iwi are growing their tourism portfolios both in Maori and non- Maori tourism experiences