Air New Zealand chief executive Christopher Luxon says his airline's marketing in China aims to portray this country as romantic and an ideal destination for families.

He said his airline had just enjoyed its best ever performance in China in the past year, despite increased competition and an economic slowdown there.

Air New Zealand has been flying directly to China since 2006 and has forged a new relationship with Air China to allow a resumption of services to Beijing.

He told the China Business Summit in Auckland on Monday that more targeted marketing was helping to expand the high-value end of the China market. While overall numbers were continuing to grow quickly, the spend per visitor was growing even faster.


Air New Zealand was "fixated" on two marketing platforms to attract families and couples.

"We think there are lots of 30-year-olds who want to come down to New Zealand and have some time out. It's a very romantic place after all and we're spending a lot of time on that."

The airline was using celebrities and those with a large social media following to promote the country.

A campaign with Tourism New Zealand attracted the Chinese family reality show, Dad, Where Are We Going? to this country.

Episodes filmed here attracted 400 million viewers.

Luxon said that although the 328,000 Chinese visitors to New Zealand was important for our tourist market, that represented just 0.3 per cent of outbound travel out of China.

"We don't need that much more growth in order to be able to transform our businesses," he said. "I'm a real optimist about where we're going with China - it's got a world of opportunities."

He said negotiations with Air China had been quick and seamless. Air China would start daily services to Beijing next month while Air New Zealand would continue its flights to Shanghai.

The two airlines had a "deep commercial relationship" and would share revenue.