While Australia is still New Zealand’s largest tourism market (40%), China is the second (14%) with Japan and Korea also playing an important role. China is also the fastest growing market in terms of numbers and value.
Last year Chinese visitors spent almost $1.7 billion dollars in the New Zealand economy. Provided the New Zealand tourism industry can continue to deliver a great visitor experience for this market and economic conditions in China continue to hold, we can expect strong growth to persist.There is an increasing proportion of free and independent travellers (FITs) from the China market – these visitors tend to stay much longer than visitors on group shopping tours. This, in turn, has helped lift spend from this market.With more FITs from China, the travel pasterns of this market are changing, with Chinese visitors spreading further across New Zealand’s regions. Chinese visitors are also engaging in a wider range of activities. The changes in travel pasterns for the Chinese market are having a positive impact on length of stay and spend for this market.
The outlook for Japan is positive. Visitor growth maintained its momentum in 2015, up 7.6 per cent on a year earlier, exceeding expectations in last year’s forecasts. Visitor spending also increased by 17.3 per cent over the same period. Although Japanese visitor arrivals were up 7.6 per cent in 2015, the Japanese economy has been weak, so other factors must be at play to sustain this growth. The age distribution of Japanese visitors has shifted towards the younger brackets, and these visitors spend less than their older counterparts. Encouraging repeat visits provides an opportunity to grow the number of visitors.
Korean visitor arrivals increased 17.1 per cent in 2015, to 65,000 visitors. Korean household consumption has improved in 2015 and is expected to continue. The South Korean won has also been stronger than many other currencies, boosting spend from this market. Moderate growth from the Korean market in the short to medium term is expected. South Korea’s economy improved in 2015. Most analysts expect this growth to continue in 2016 and 2017. Interest rates have been low, stimulating consumption and investment in the economy. This contributes to economic growth, which helps to support outbound tourism. Unlike many other markets, the won has been appreciating against the New Zealand dollar, lifting spending from this market.
Outside of Mainland China are large Chinese speaking communities. In New Zealand alone there are over 300,000 Chinese speakers. Chinese is the official language of Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan and Singapore. There are also significant (over 5 million) numbers of Chinese speakers in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. In the past 12 months there were 54,480 Singaporean, 42,496 Malaysian and 25,824 Thai visitors to New Zealand. When tourism operators are thinking of the Chinese (speaking) market they need to be aware that it is a very diverse group and cannot be categorised by one nationality.
The Types of Asian Tourist:
Younger Chinese travellers (age 25-44) are a great demographic for tour and activity operators to target.
- Not only are they more inclined to spend on leisure activities, but they’re very interested in experiencing culture first-hand.
- They tend to be from affluent families, so they aren’t as limited by budget than other segments.
- On holiday, they enjoy engaging in adventurous activities, seeking in-depth experiences with the local culture, or an area of special interest.
They have better foreign language skills than their older counterparts, thanks to being more exposed to them while growing up. One of the reasons they travel is to practice their language skills.
As they use the internet extensively, much of their planning is done online, and they’re very active on social media. They either travel independently or join partial tours. Tour operators should design adventure and culture oriented activities to add to their product catalogue.
Older Chinese travellers (45 and over) should not be neglected.
- They love packaged tours because they are less experienced travellers compared to their younger counterparts. This is because foreign travel was severely limited.
- On holiday, they want to see as many iconic attractions as possible, not spending too much time in one spot.
- Shopping is an important element. They feel obliged to bring back gifts.
Their language skills are not as good as the younger generation due to lack of exposure. Because of this, they typically opt for packaged tours, planned by travel agents.
When spending, they want the best value for money. However, they are also motivated by prestige, so brand is very important. Tour operators should design private and group tours that allow them to see a lot of iconic attractions in a day.
Independent travellers are a rapidly growing segment that you absolutely must consider.
- They tend to be younger, with a large portion having lived, worked and studied abroad.
- They tend to be more wealthy, being experienced travellers who spend more on it.
- Absorbing the local culture is a priority, so they tend to move beyond city centres for more interactive and authentic experiences, and stay longer in one destination.
Independent Chinese travellers take control of their itineraries. You definitely won’t find them booking packaged tours, which they see as boring. They travel to interact with the local culture, seeking new, novel experiences that make them stand out in their social circles. While planning their trip they rely on the internet for opinions from other travellers. Travel agents are still often used to make the actual booking. It takes a while for them to get visas in order, so they book way in advance. Tour operators should focus on allowing these travellers to authentically experience the local culture, in areas outside of the city centre.
Chinese travellers that travel in groups and packaged tours are convenient they will only need one group booking.
- They tend to be first time or inexperienced travellers, so they prefer the convenience, comfort and safety of travelling in a group.
- On their travels, they want to travel to as many places and experience as many activities as possible.
- Most of their trip involves sightseeing and shopping. Their time is heavily scheduled, so a limited time is spent at each location.
In terms of their preferences, they like to have Chinese language and food options, and are not interested in high-end accommodations or transport.
They tend to be heavily influenced by traditional marketing, and book their itineraries through a tour agency. Tour operators should have Chinese-speaking tour guides, add Chinese food options to their meals, and make sure sightseeing to a bunch of stops is a part of their tour itinerary.
Super Rich Travellers
In the past this group have mainly focused on Europe and America however there is increasing interest in New Zealand.
- Their average age is 36, and they love to travel. In fact, it is one of their most preferred leisure activities, and they travel a more than 2 times per year. They like to plan their own schedule, with around half of them booking online.
- They value privacy and high quality service. They are interested in adventure tourism and more experiential travel.
- Exposure to new cultures is the main motivation for travel.
In addition to experiencing new cultures, affluent Chinese travellers visit their children studying abroad, or visit destinations to research schools to send their children to. In this case, tours and activities are done in their extra leisure time. Tour operators should have a high-end private tour option which focuses on VIP service.
Map: Chinese travellers are visiting more regions than before, with strong growth in spend especially in the South Island regions.
Graph: Participation rates for popular activities undertaken by Chinese holidaymakers, and how rates compare with all international holidaymakers.
Decision making factors
East Asian tourists vary significantly from market to market. Traditionally the vast majority of these travellers have visited New Zealand as part of tour groups and have only been directed to the main tourism centres of Auckland, Rotorua, Wellington and Queenstown. Thanks to online marketing and a younger generation of travellers more visitors want to explore outside of the main tourism track.
North East Asia is highly connected and travellers place a great deal of importance on web based marketing as well as online reviews. Websites should be professionally translated, and emails responded to in the visitors own language. Blogs, online posts and reviews should be encouraged and social media needs to play an important role in reaching out to Asian customers.
While it is important to not compromise the integrity of a tourism activity to chase the 元 (RMB) it is important to be mindful and respectful of other cultures. It is important that the travelers are aware of the local customs and cultural norms, for example the protocols to going onto a marae.
Asian travellers want a unique experience which they cannot otherwise have in their own country. It is important for tourism operators to identify what makes their service special and tell their story. If the visitors finds the activity unique they will share their experience online creating free promotion for the business.
Comfort and Safety
Safety plays an important role for Asian travellers. It is important that tourism operators are able to provide safety instructions and briefings in the travellers own language.
For tourism operators who want to grow their Asian visitor numbers it is important they produce marketing material, briefing information and are able to deal with correspondence in the correct language.
Ease of Payment
Many Chinese travellers do not use VISA, instead use their own local payment solutions like China UnionPay or WeChat Wallet. For tourism operators who are dealing with language numbers of Chinese travellers it maybe worth while offering these payment solutions.