Sunday Star-Times

Ping-pong tourists bouncing back to New Zealand


Once is not enough for some foreigners visiting New Zealand, with many opting for repeated visits Down Under.

Malaysian businessma­n Adrian Lim – one of the so-called ‘‘ping pong tourists’’ – is about to embark on his fifth chauffeur-driven tour of the country and reckons it will not be his last.

‘‘I am not a person who likes to visit places in a rush, and if the places I have visited are worth coming back, I will be back again and again, just like I have been to Australia at least a dozen times’’.

Tourism New Zealand estimates that over the five years from 2010 about a third of tourists were repeat visitors.

Australian­s are our largest market and almost 60 per cent of Aussie visitors had been here before, according to director of trade, public relations and major events Rene de Monchy.

‘‘We know from some research that historical­ly Australian­s will visit New Zealand three times in their life time so they’re highly likely to return’’.

On average about 30 per cent of Japanese and UK visitors, 20 per cent of Germans and North Americans, and 17 per cent of Chinese were repeat visitors.

They tend to spend less than first timers ($2900 a head as opposed to $3900) but de Monchy said little was known about where they went, what they did, or when their initial visit took place.

‘‘What the data doesn’t tell us is when they came – whether it was 2005 or 1985 – so there could be quite a lag’’.

Lim first came here about two and a half years ago to photograph birds and has since branched out into scenic photograph­y. He also enjoys the skiing.

‘‘New Zealand is just perfect for me to pursue these hobbies and to explore the different environmen­ts in different seasons.

‘‘It is also a relaxing country that I can escape to, from my rat race kind of life in my home country’’.

Chris Cameron owns The Road Trip, a bespoke tour company that hosted the Lim family, and has had about 10 repeat clients over the four years he has been in business.

‘‘The number one reason is that they’ve done either the North or South Island and haven’t had time to do the other. It’s an excuse to finish the bucket list’’.

Cameron said New Zealand’s relative safety was a big drawcard.

‘‘Barring natural disasters we are a very safe place to visit, we don’t have any of the risks in other countries, even Europe with the terror attacks.’’

In his experience, such visitors spent a lot.

‘‘Helicopter­s, food win . we had one client that spent $400 on a bottle of whiskey just because it was the best he could find, and they tend to spend a lot on Manuka honey’’.

Convention­s and Incentives New Zealand chief executive Sue Sullivan is keen to get more informatio­n on repeat visitors.

Next year Queenstown will host 10,000 Chinese Amway sellers being rewarded for their hard work and the incentive deal is expected to inject $50 million into the economy.

The hope is that the trip will inspire some to return with their families.

Sydney had a huge ‘‘conversion rate’’ from conference­s with many delegates later choosing it as a holiday destinatio­n, but there was no hard data available on the New Zealand situation, Sullivan said.

Anecdotal evidence suggested conference-goers and incentive travellers who came alone were more inclined to return for a holiday than those who were accompanie­d by a partner, she said.

Inbound tour company owner Kate Deng specialise­s in independen­t travellers from China and said about a third of her 7000 customers last year were here for at least the second time.

She said extending the Chinese multi-entry visa to five years would help encourage people to come back back because they could snap up cheap airfares without having to worry about applying for a visa.

After hitting hot spots such as Rotorua and Queenstown on their initial trips, most of her ‘‘ping pong’’ tourists were more inclined to visit the top of the South Island, or North Island, places they had missed out previously.

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