New Zealand's winter season could bring an influx of Chinese tourists looking to make the most of the ski season following a new partnership agreement between Auckland Airport and Air China.
Auckland Airport chief executive Adrian Littlewood met with Air China's vice chairman of the commercial committee Jia Tiesheng earlier this week to sign the agreement - aimed at boosting tourist numbers to New Zealand in the winter months.
The agreement is part of the airport and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's joint venture programme - four seasons, five senses - promoting tourism opportunities outside of the peak visiting month of February and Chinese New Year.
"[Snow sports] is a fairly new emerging market in China," Littlewood said. "They obviously have the 2022 Winter Olympics coming up in the near future so for them there's a growing interest in snow sports," he said.
"Obviously for New Zealand it's a fantastic product to sell in the low season compared to the summer season, and to try and stimulate passenger growth and promote attractive itineraries based around snow sports, so we do see this as a new category of travel itineraries for Chinese passengers."
Littlewood said Chinese passenger numbers to New Zealand were growing by about 27 per cent year on year with the country seeing around 360,000 of the 120 million to 150 million outbound passengers from China. He said New Zealand had a small fraction of a very big market, but the opportunities for growth were huge.
"The ability even just to grow our share is significant," he said. "So working with airlines like Air China and with the travel trade and New Zealand tourism companies together, is the best way we can really tap into that opportunity, and there will be plenty more opportunities to do this in the future."
Littlewood declined to comment on the specific details of the deal but said the "four seasons five senses" programme, which is in its first year, was tracking ahead of its targets, and in some areas double where the company expected it to be.
China is currently developing several major resorts to host winter sports events, which would open opportunities for both sides to promote "counter seasonal" winter holidays.