Ar­row­town’s Chi­nese al­lure a gold­mine

Central Otago Mirror - - NEWS - By SUE FEA Fast facts:

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.

Photo: SUE FEA

Asia mar­ket spe­cial­ist: Swiss-Bel­ho­tel In­ter­na­tional’s Hong Kong-based group op­er­a­tions di­rec­tor Gor­don Coutts.

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