$7m more to sell NZ to China

By Owen Hembry

A $7 million attempt by the Government to market New Zealand to Chinese tourists has drawn a mixed reaction from the industry.

Tourism Minister Damien O'Connor yesterday announced the new funding for Tourism New Zealand to be spent over two years.

A spokeswoman for Air New Zealand - which does its own marketing in Shanghai - said that although the airline was pleased with the funding, it did not seem enough to make much difference.

"Based on the airline's experience over the past year in marketing its new Auckland-Shanghai service, the allocation to Tourism New Zealand falls substantially short of the investment required to successfully promote New Zealand in what is a very challenging market," said Air NZ's Tracey Palmer

Peter Myles, managing director of leading agency Media Direction/OMD, said the increased funding was not an aggressive stance.

"$7 million is not a huge amount of dough in a market even the size of Shanghai and the potential it represents to us," Myles said.

"Is it really exploiting the opportunity? ... I would say it probably isn't."

Kevin Blight of Mitchell & Partners said: "My guess is that it's not a lot of money but the smart thing they're doing is focusing it."

The funding would be in addition to Tourism New Zealand's annual budget of $69 million.

Tourism New Zealand chief executive George Hickton said the extra money would raise marketing in China to almost the same level as Britain. It would focus on Shanghai.

Chinese visitor numbers for the year ending March were up 26 per cent to 114,364, compared with 302,812 tourists from Britain.

Hickton said: "This will give us the opportunity to actually start doing some work in the area [and] look at what works best."

Marketing activity would be aimed at the mid to upper-level Chinese consumer and include television, print, internet, events and research.

The goal was improved itineraries, longer stays and higher yielding tourists, Hickton said.

Tourism New Zealand would also take over administration of the China Approved Destination Status, with $900,000 of the new funding earmarked to drive improvements.

"Essentially we will have people who'll be focusing on the approval process, whether or not the tours are what we would call of a reasonable quality, whether the people presenting the tours are bona fide," he said.

"China is going to become an important market for us so we want to get the quality right at both ends."

Paul Yeo, chief executive of the Inbound Tour Operators Council, was delighted with the new funding.

"It's got to be successful for both New Zealand and for Chinese visitors and it's all about getting it right and you can't do that without a good level of funds", Yeo said.

"We believe this is an excellent signal to enable us to cope with our fastest-growing market into the future."

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