New Zealanders' negative attitudes towards Chinese visitors could derail the country's tourism boom, a local sales and training company says.
Following recent reports of Kiwi resentment towards Chinese property buyers and foreign drivers, antagonistic attitudes may translate into bad experiences for visitors, Jacqui Scott director of the Great Scott Training Company says.
Scott says business owners are reaping the rewards of Chinese tourism and there needs to be a change in attitudes where customer service takes place.
Last year 330,000 Chinese people visited New Zealand. Over the past five years visitor numbers have seen solid growth, with New Zealand's green reputation and abundance of premium foods attracting an increasing number of Chinese nationals.
"As a customer, even I have encountered antagonism when visiting other parts of New Zealand, so you can imagine what it might be like to be a Chinese visitor when people have a fear that they are buying up all of our houses," Scott said.
"We need to be educating the general population with the facts, and training our front line staff to understand how to work with different cultures."
China is New Zealand's second largest source of international arrivals, an important market for the industry. It continues to grow with total China arrivals up 29.2 per cent and holiday arrivals up 34 per cent for the year ending April.
Scott said businesses that understand the cultures of the customers they were serving were the ones that saw more success.
"If we want to benefit both financially and culturally from Chinese tourism, we need to be a lot more understanding, open and empathetic," she said.
Despite Scott's concerns, Tourism New Zealand corporate affairs general manager Deborah Gray said visitor research has shown New Zealand meets or exceeds the expectations of 94 per cent of our visitors.
She said China was an important source market for New Zealand. For the year ending March 2016 each Chinese visitor spent just under $5,000 on average.
"We know that New Zealand is seen as a friendly and safe destination in all of our target markets due to the welcoming nature of New Zealanders," Gray said.
This year international tourism spending surpassed $10 billion for the first time.
According to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employments's (MBIE) international visitor survey, spending was up 25 per cent for the year ending March.
If we want to benefit both financially and culturally from Chinese tourism, we need to be a lot more understanding, open and empathetic.
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International travel and migration data released by Statistics New Zealand showed total holiday arrivals for the year ending April were up 15.5 per cent and visitor arrivals up 10.6 per cent.
Tourism New Zealand chief executive Kevin Bowler said the tourism industry was supported by the growth in spend in the China market which is also up 41 per cent to an average $4,900 per visitor.
Arrival figures for the UK, Germany, US, and India have also shown solid growth over the past year.