By Leanne Malcolm
New Zealand tourist operators have been told to sharpen their act if they want a piece of the affluent Chinese market.
Hundreds of international tourism buyers are in Queenstown this week for the industry's annual showcase, and they have been told New Zealand is not ready to capitalize on forecast strong improvements in the Chinese and Asian markets in the second half of this year.
It is Queenstown’s chance to shine as the global downturn and the Christchurch earthquake take their toll on international visitor numbers.
Six hundred buyers from the world's tourism industry are at TRENZ, sampling some of the country's biggest attractions.
Among them are 38 buyers from China, a market with huge growth potential, if New Zealand steps up.
“These are well travelled visitors, they expect international service,” says Tourism NZ’s Kevin Bowler.
With traditional markets like the UK and America falling away in recent months, everyone wants a piece of China, but tourism industry leaders say some operators find that change daunting and need to tailor their experiences.
“Chinese are no different, they're not stupid, they’re going to go ‘ok I get it, beautiful country, but you know where else can I go where I'll be made to feel much more welcome’,” says Chinese travel expert Lilly Choi-Lee.
Offering up Asian food is an obvious way to make visitors feel welcome.
“Food that these visitors are used to, particularly breakfast and catering to the vegetarian needs of the markets like India and Malaysia,” says Mr Bowler.
Sixty million Chinese will leave their country for holidays this year. Extra air services into Christchurch should bring some of them down under.
As well as the scenery, they're sampling our style as well, a valuable chance to market a resort as it heads into uncertain times.
The value of the tourism dollar is huge. It brings in $9.5 billion annually, so TRENZ organisers hope they've got the message across to operators - adapt and the rewards will come.