Ping-pong tourists bounc­ing back to New Zealand

Sunday Star-Times - - NEWS - AMANDA CROPP

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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