Man­darin helpers needed at air­port

Central Leader - - NEWS - By SCOTT MOR­GAN

More Man­darin-speak­ing vol­un­teers are join­ing Auck­land Air­port’s Blue­coat ranks.

Be­cause of the grow­ing num­ber of vis­i­tors from China the air­port is re­cruit­ing more Man­darin speak­ers – and more are needed.

Blue­coat vol­un­teers help pas­sen­gers with a va­ri­ety of queries that arise when vis­it­ing the air­port.

Tourism New Zealand fig­ures show in the year to May, 220,736 Chi­nese vis­i­tors came to New Zealand – an in­crease of 27.9 per cent on the pre­vi­ous year.

Air­port cus­tomer care man­ager Julie Berry says many of the 14 Man­darin speak­ers who have be­come Blue­coats are stu­dents.

‘‘For the younger ones like stu­dents, it gives them the con­fi­dence, self-es­teem and cus­tomer ser­vice ex­pe­ri­ence. If they’re look­ing at a cus­tomer ser­vice ca­reer, it’s a good place to start.’’

She says many tour groups vis­it­ing New Zealand are looked af­ter by an English-speak­ing guide.

But of­ten the grow­ing num­ber of in­de­pen­dent trav­ellers from China need help.

‘‘There’s quite a few el­derly Asian trav­ellers that have chil­dren that are here and they are now vis­it­ing more,’’ she says.

About 120 Blue­coats work a min­i­mum of two four-hour shifts a week. They work be­tween 5.30am and 11pm.

‘‘They’re a very close-knit group of peo­ple – it’s al­most like a club. They sup­port each other,’’ Ms Berry says.

New Blue­coat Peter Lum has been on the job a month.

‘‘Ev­ery time you go on a shift some­one comes up with a ques­tion – it’s not the same ev­ery day. Some- times peo­ple are wait­ing for pas­sen­gers and they’re not even sure if they’re on the plane or of the flight num­ber.’’

One vis­i­tor ap­proached Mr Lum just to warn him about trav­el­ling to Egypt be­cause of se­cu­rity con­cerns.

Point­ing out where shops are, help­ing retailers with pro­mo­tions and ex­plain­ing New Zealand’s de­par­ture card are some queries.

‘‘We are the eyes and ears – we can calm them down a bit if needed.’’

The Mt Eden res­i­dent, who speaks Man­darin, Can­tonese and Malaysian and has a back­ground in hos­pi­tal­ity, says he en­joys be­ing a Blue­coat.

‘‘If we’re not able to help at least we can be a friendly face.’’

Photo: SCOTT MOR­GAN

Help­ing hand:

Auck­land Air­port Blue­coat vol­un­teer Peter Lum is one of sev­eral new re­cruits who is flu­ent in Man­darin.

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