A tourism group has welcomed a package of measures that promise to boost the already buoyant Chinese market.

A range of announcements coinciding with the visit of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang include a 20 per cent increase in the number of flights from China, new visa rules, and ease of movement through New Zealand airports, and declared 2019 as an official year of China-New Zealand tourism.

Chinese airlines will also be able to touch down at more than one airport in this country with international passengers on board.

The Government wants to encourage more Chinese tourists to visit in off-peak times and attract more independent travellers who tend to spend more while on holiday here.


The air services agreement will immediately lift the weekly flight cap to 59 from 49, with a further 11 flights pending talks later in the year, while Chinese multiple-entry visas into New Zealand have been extended to five years from three years and Chinese passport holders will be allowed to use SmartGate entry.

Tourism Industry Aotearoa says the measures recognise the importance of this market for New Zealand's tourism industry, and the need to keep evolving in order to get the best value from it.

Visitor numbers from China have grown quickly to the point where they are now New Zealand's second biggest visitor market after Australia, with 409,000 arrivals a year, spending $1.7 billion.

"There is every reason to believe this will continue, " said chief executive Chris Roberts.

"In terms of the ability of our infrastructure to cope, TIA is also close to releasing our research into priorities for tourism infrastructure investment, and we will be working with both the public and private sectors to progress projects this research identifies."

Tourism Minister Paula Bennett said officials would work with the China National Tourism Administration to establish a focus for2019 that reflects the priorities and interests of both countries.

"Chinese tourist numbers have increased significantly in recent years and that growth is forecast to continue. The China-New Zealand Year of Tourism offers opportunities to build new relationships and foster current ones so both countries can achieve their tourism objectives."

Transport Minister Simon Bridges said there was now potential for 20 per cent more flights between the two countries.


Officials also have the opportunity to further expand the agreement later this year if certain conditions are met.

Airlines flying direct are Air New Zealand, Air China, China Southern, China Eastern, Tianjin, Hainan and from the middle of the year, Sichuan.

The deal has also opened up more options for flying around New Zealand.

"Chinese airlines can now operate between airports in New Zealand during the course of their international service, allowing airports that do not receive flights by Chinese airlines the opportunity to do so," Bridges said.

Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse and Customs Minister Nicky Wagner said three new initiatives would make it easier for Chinese visitors to come to New Zealand.

They are:
• Extending the multiple-entry visa for Chinese visitors from three years to five years from May 8.
• Extending the use of SmartGate facilities to Chinese passport holders.
• Enabling visa applicants to pay for online visa applications using the popular UnionPay debit and credit cards.


The amount spent by Chinese visitors is forecast to grow from $1.67b to $5.3b in 2022.