Arrowtown’s Chinese allure a goldmine
Arrowtown can expect its historic Chinese settlement to become a major drawcard for an anticipated influx of Chinese visitors to the region Queenstown, a leading hotelier says. Swiss-Belhotel International’s Hong Kong-based group operations director Gordon Coutts knows the Chinese market well, having also worked in Shanghai for the Asian hotel heavyweight. He’s in Queenstown this month overseeing the launch of the chain’s first New Zealand property, Swiss-Belresort Coronet Peak, and said Otago’s rich Chinese goldmining heritage will fascinate Chinese tourists. ‘‘The Chinese are very traditional when it comes to Chinese history and dynasties. They’re very proud of their culture and ancestors.’’ The Arrowtown settlement was one of only three original Chinese settlement sites left in the South Island. ‘‘It would be very appealing to the Chinese – an opportunity to step back in time. ‘‘It’s an amazing story of how the Chinese gold prospectors first arrived in Arrowtown from Guangzhou in Guangdong province in South China in the late 1880s to seek wealth and of the hardships they endured. Chinese visitors would be very keen to visit this type of tourist attraction, without it being over commercialised.’’ Queenstown’s proposed sister city relationship with Hangzhou – a popular tourist city of 9 million, just two hours’ train ride from Shanghai – would greatly raise awareness in the Chinese market, he said. ‘‘Currently New Zealand is sold as an addition to Australia.’’ Australia and New Zealand were ‘‘favoured destinations’’ with Chinese travellers, who were becoming much more ‘‘adventurous’’. A relaxation of visa regulations and rules meant Chinese were travelling and spending more. High-end retailers should prepare for an onslaught of souvenir and retail spending, Mr Coutts said. ‘‘In Canton Rd, Hong Kong, they’re queuing outside Prada and Louis Vuitton wanting to spend big. ‘‘You see them getting back on the planes with literally boxes full of high-end bags,’’ Mr Coutts said. But ‘‘tranquility, peace and amazing scenery’’ are what the Swiss Belhotel chain will focus on in pushing its new Queenstown property to millions of Chinese from overpopulated cities. ‘‘We will be tapping into the wholesale, inbound coach and ski packages through our Indonesian power base. ‘‘Don’t change too much. Keep it natural. Deliver that customer care and service and learn the basics of the language and culture. ‘‘Chinese visitors can be very demanding with their service standards,’’ Mr Coutts said. New Zealand beef and lamb were high on the visitors’ list of wants, although it would be appreciated if hotels and restaurants could offer congee (a Chinese soup made with rice), which is a daily Chinese staple. ● China is now New Zealand’s second largest tourism market ● Chinese visitors are forecast to more than double by 2018 ● For the year ending September 2013 Chinese visitors totalled more than 236,000, contributing $645 million to NZ economy.
Asia market specialist: Swiss-Belhotel International’s Hong Kong-based group operations director Gordon Coutts.