Catch­ing the dragon’s tail

Reporter Mary-Jo To­hill looks at the govern­ment’s Tourism Growth Part­ner­ship projects and ini­tia­tives, to see where the South­ern Lakes fit into the pic­ture.

Central Otago Mirror - - NEWS -

Tourism is a bit like the tra­di­tional Chi­nese school-yard game, ‘‘catch the dragon’s tail.’’

Imag­ine that the chil­dren who line up are tourism in­dus­try mem­bers.

At the dragon’s head is the New Zealand Govern­ment, and the game it leads is tourism.

The last in line is the dragon’s tail, in this case China and the tourists New Zealand is try­ing to cap­ture.

The dragon’s head then tries to catch the tail by ma­neu­ver­ing the line around to tag the last player.

It’s not a bad anal­ogy for tourism, be­cause it takes more than one player to play the game. But it seems clear that while the govern­ment will drive ini­tia­tives for the next four years in a $32 mil­lion part­ner­ship with New Zealand busi­nesses to grow tourism, it wants the in­dus­try to even­tu­ally lead the dragon – and catch its tail.

It’s the game south­ern touris­m­mec­cas need to help New Zealand win, in a quest to at­tract more Chi­nese vis­i­tors, not just our trans-Tas­man neigh­bour’s 1.2 mil­lion Chi­nese res­i­dents, but peo­ple from China it­self.

A solid move in the game to catch the dragon’s tail hap­pened in Queen­stown ten days ago when a mar­ket­ing work­shop was held to get tourism op­er­a­tors en­thused about en­cour­ag­ing more in­ter­na­tional Chi­nese vis­i­tors.

Led by Auck­land In­ter­na­tional Air­port’s in­ter­na­tional mar­ket devel­op­ment man­ager Mark Frood, the tourism ini­tia­tive ‘‘four sea­sons, five senses’’ was about cap­tur­ing more of the Chi­nese mar­ket, to make New Zealand the hol­i­day des­ti­na­tion of choice for Asian trav­ellers.

The con­cept which was launched at the Tourism In­dus­try As­so­ci­a­tion’s TRENZ show­case held in May at Auck­land, was based on in­ten­sive re­search about what Chi­nese tourists ex­pect when they come to this coun­try and ‘‘to un­der­stand what re­ally pushes their but­tons’’, Frood said. This was prov­ing to be an im­mer­sive ex­pe­ri­ence of all that New Zealand had to of­fer through­out its sea­sons, in terms of its land­scape, cul­ture, food and wine.

‘‘We’re tar­get­ing high-value Chi­nese peo­ple, who are rel­a­tively time-rich com­pared to the trav­ellers we’ve seen be­fore. They’re go­ing to be bet­ter trav­elled, and they will want im­mer­sive ex­pe­ri­ences to take home with them.’’

Queen­stown was ‘‘very much part of the New Zealand ex­pe­ri­ence’’, Frood said, who un­til two years ago, worked for tourism ser­vice provider Des­ti­na­tion Queen­stown.

Op­er­a­tors from the West Coast, Otago and South­land, aimed to pool their knowl­edge of both New Zealand and China’s fes­ti­vals, cus­toms, sto­ries and the cul­tural cal­en­dar, to cre­ate a co-or­di­nated ap­proach to tourism, he said.

The China mar­ket had been cho­sen be­cause of the growth of in­de­pen­dent travel to New Zealand, the air con­nec­tiv­ity that now ex­isted be­tween the two coun­tries, and the abil­ity to tar­get more ef­fec­tively via trade and dig­i­tal chan­nels.

With this mind, a part­ner­ship had been formed be­tween the govern­ment and the Auck­land In­ter­na­tional Air­port Ltd Food and Wine Clus­ter project, tar­get­ing Chi­nese tourists from Quang­dong in China.

It be­gan in July, at­tract­ing govern­ment fund­ing of $1.11 mil­lion, with the in­dus­try pro­vid­ing $1.78 mil­lion. In the next three years, the part­ner­ship was ex­pected to gen­er­ate $81 mil­lion worth of ben­e­fits through­out the en­tire tourism sec­tor.

Ngai Tahu Tourism’s south­ern re­gional gen­eral man­ager David Kennedy of Queen­stown said he could not com­ment on the part­ner­ships, as they were com­mer­cial agree­ments be­tween govern­ment and the pri­vate sec­tor.

How­ever, he said it was ap­par­ent from Tourism New Zealand mar­ket­ing re­search that the Chi­nese mar­ket was quickly mor­ph­ing from group tours to free in­de­pen­dent trav­ellers, ‘‘which is good as they are higher spend­ing, longer stay­ing vis­i­tors, and in line with what we are see­ing in our op­er­a­tions in Queen­stown.’’

Ngai Tahu Tourism would be look­ing at pos­si­ble in­volve­ment in the Four Sea­sons, Five Senses ini­tia­tive, as part of the Tourism 2025 frame­work and the as­pi­ra­tional goal to in­crease tourism’s con­tri­bu­tion to the New Zealand econ­omy from the cur­rent $24 bil­lion to $41 bil­lion in 2025.

Eastern prom­ise: Strate­gies are in place to at­tract more Chi­nese tourists to New Zealand and the South­ern Lakes.

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