Chinese boost booming resort

By Nina Jensen

The Year of the Monkey will begin with a rush in Queenstown next month as the Chinese New Year holiday coincides with the resort’s busiest month for the second consecutive year.

Several thousand Chinese visitors are expected to arrive in the resort during the holiday from February 7 to 13.

Destination Queenstown chief executive Graham Budd says the resort is probably the must-do destination on the itineraries of tourists from mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

“Chinese New Year falls right on top of Waitangi Day and the peak time for all international visitors.

“Although there’s a lot of talk about Chinese New Year, it’s just a layer on top of what is already a busy time.”

Chinese airlines already flying into Auckland and Christchurch increased their capacity over last summer, he says, while other airlines are offering services for the first time.

Queenstown Airport acting chief executive Mike Clay says the Chinese New Year boost is a growing phenomenon, but is not yet as busy as the airport’s mid-summer and winter peaks.

Figures for the number of Chinese passengers arriving via domestic flights from Auckland and Christchurch are not available but the growth in international flights is astonishing – up from 580 in February 2013 to 2390 last February.

“It’s almost doubling every year.”

NZONE Skydive spokesman Derek Melnick says China is now its biggest market, having overtaken Australia a few months ago.

The company is enjoying the fruits of five years of direct marketing in China, with “triple-digit” growth in the past two years.

The Queenstown wedding of Chinese actress and social media darling Yao Chen in 2012 has been a catalyst for couples from that country to skydive with the company and “pop the question”.

NZONE has responded by employing more Chinese staff, Melnick says.

“We started with one. Now we have five full-timers across all facets of the business.”

Real Journeys operates several tourism activities, including steam ship TSS Earnslaw on Lake Wakatipu.

Operations director Paul Norris says it has added extra dates for activities during the Chinese New Year holiday to cope with a spike in bookings.

“We always have to cater for a week either side of Chinese New Year, especially with Walter Peak farm tours, Milford Sound cruises and the Te Anau glow-worm caves.”

It is similar to the Christmas-New Year rush, he says.

Tourism Industry Association hotel sector regional chairwoman Penny Clark says Queenstown hotels have been frantically busy all summer, so the influx of Chinese holidaymakers will not have a major impact.

“It’s just more of the same because there are only so many rooms.”

The resort’s accommodation capacity has not grown in the past 12 months, which means independent Chinese travellers who left their bookings too late will miss out.

Visitors who contact hotels directly, rather than looking online, will still find rooms, she says.

26 January 2016

Source: ODT via Mountain Scene online

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