Queenstown prepared for Chinese tourism backlash
Destination Queenstown boss Graham Budd is monitoring the deepening political situation between New Zealand and China but says he's ready for any dramatic downturn in tourism - from any country including China.
A war of words seems to be escalating in China where a number of advisories and English language media stories are suggesting New Zealand is not a good tourism choice for Chinese travellers. The moves appear to be linked to pushback in New Zealand against situations like the Chinese company Huawei being denied full access to the NZ market on security grounds.
The anti-NZ tourism campaign appears to have started as early as December 7 last year when the Chinese Embassy in New Zealand posted this notice claiming that Chinese tourists in NZ had had their vehicles smashed, luggage stolen, passports taken and suffered "heavy losses" due to the "low rate of police investigations." The advisory notice was targeted at future Chinese tourists planning travel to NZ.
The advisory notices and anti-NZ tourism stories have continued into January and February alongside the postponement of the launch of a major NZ-China Year of Tourism. Queenstown sent a delegation of over 30 tourism operators to China last year as part of a sales push, partially funded by Auckland International Airport.
Speaking to Crux today from a Tourism NZ conference, Destination Queenstown CEO Graham Budd was pragmatic about the situation, saying that even though there were around 400,000 visitors to NZ from China each year, the Chinese market was only about 8% of the total visitors to Queenstown - roughly the same market share as visitors from the US.
"We take a portfolio approach to protect ourselves from exactly these type of unexpected downturns" he said. "We don't want to overreact to the current situation between NZ and China. We made a marketing push into China last year but that's behind us now and we've had similar experiences with other markets for all sorts of reasons - political, economic, even public health scares - so we are prepared for most eventualities."
Budd denied knowledge of the type of problems highlighted by the Chinese Embassy suggesting they might have been isolated incidents that took place elsewhere in New Zealand.
Mayor Jim Boult took a different approach on the subject saying it was "unfortunate" that the current Government had got itself into problems with China, saying it was an important relationship for NZ and everything possible should be done to get the relationship back into good shape.
Mayor Boult was part of last year's tourism delegation to China.