The trend is away from European holidaymakers and toward Asia, particularly China, writes Fran O'Sullivan.

Chinese student groups will soon be winging their way to New Zealand via China Southern to try out the country's ski slopes.

The short trips are being marketed by Guangzhou-based GZL International Travel Service.

GZL project manager Liu Xiaocong told the Herald that "boutique" excursions were popular with younger "style-conscious" Chinese who wanted to spread their time between learning how to ski, "free-time skiing" and team-building activities..

The company designs the trips around its customers' needs. But its major consumer group is middle-class families aged between 35-45 and retired couples who have more flexible time.


The Chinese have fewer holiday entitlements than New Zealanders, hence they are more disposed to take shorter trips.

Says Liu: "There are not too many young tourists who have been to New Zealand, because they can't afford the cost and don't have such a long annual leave."

A typical New Zealand itinerary of 8-12 days costs $3000 to $5000.

The latest Chinese Luxury Consumer White Paper points to tourism as a major consumer field with 19 per cent of those surveyed listing it as a "must have".

Unlike the US market, luxury lodges are not a popular destination for Chinese.

They prefer to stay in hotels among plenty of people.

Auckland International Airport strategist Glen Wedlock, who is credited as one of the key members of the brains trust which is developing the airport as a major international hub, says it is essential that New Zealand leverages the big geographical shift in tourism trends.

Forecasts show a definite switch away from the European tourists, who used to sustain New Zealand's tourism. The big growth trend is in Asia - particularly China, where Wedlock predicts tourism numbers will swell by an additional 164,000 between 2010 and 2016.

Other growth destinations include South Korea and Malaysia.

Wedlock - who is formally titled General Manager (Aeronautical and Commercial) - says the airport aims to help major clients like China Southern market New Zealand as a key destination.

Premium China travellers are a key segment.

The affluent travellers are predicted to soak up 41 per cent of the share of total travel spending by 2020 - almost double the current rate.

By contrast the mass market is more stable and inexperienced travellers will decrease.

Most Chinese travel to Auckland is short stay (typically four nights) and indirect (typically via Australia).

Wedlock believes New Zealand has a great opportunity to gain more value from an Auckland Airport "hub" as airlines like China Southern move to increase through routes to destinations like Latin America.

There is also an opportunity to increase freight capacity on the New Zealand-China routes.

Auckland Airport is working with customers - particularly China Southern - to assist to attract more high-value customers to its business class seats.

Air New Zealand is suspending its Auckland-Beijing twice-weekly service in favour of increasing its Shanghai service to five flights weekly. It is also helping Chinese travel agents with marketing collateral, and incentive holidays are also being offered.