Mandarin speaking staff are increasingly an asset to business as tourists from the country continue to flock to our shores.

In recent years, Chinese tourists have shifted from group package tours toward independent travel which has seen visitor numbers increase greatly. The country is New Zealand's second-largest international tourism market with roughly 400,000 visitors coming in the past year.

Today marks the launch of New Zealand Chinese Language Week, and local tourism retailer Aotea Gifts - half of its 150 staff speak Mandarin - are encouraging other businesses to get on board.

"To be able to talk with our customers in their language, understand their needs and explain our products, makes for a much better customer experience," said company director Donald Hanson.

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ANZ bank is a sponsor of the event. Managing director of commercial and agriculture Mark Hiddleston said "to understand a language is to understand a culture."

"Speaking to Chinese customers in their own language enables New Zealand companies to communicate on a deeper, more informative level, as well as understanding the customers and their needs better." Hiddleston said.

"At ANZ we understand that as a business we need to invest in cultural diversity and build teams accordingly. We encourage privately-owned businesses to understand that as well," he said.

ANZ's head of migrant and Asian banking Jack Hou said "businesses are increasingly recognising that more Asian tourists and local customers want to be able to speak in their native language."

"China is increasingly important market for New Zealand exports and a growing source of tourists. Understanding Chinese culture and basic Chinese language will be an important factor for our future prosperity," Hou said.