Christchurch Airport - Benefits already obvious to SI tourism operators

More than a thousand businesspeople from Nelson to Invercargill are already seeing benefits of recent training in working with Chinese visitors.

Over the past month, business and tourism operators have attended workshops called "Becoming China Ready". The interactive workshops are being offered through 'South', the Christchurch Airport-led initiative which promotes the South Island as a tourism destination.

Manager of 'South', Dave Hawkey, says the workshops have covered everything from why China is important to New Zealand and ways to facilitate better business interaction, to tips on business behaviour and etiquette.

"We are working with Occam Consulting, a firm which specialises in assisting Westerners to work with China and vice versa," says Mr Hawkey.  "We've held workshops in 20 different centres so far and all attendees have been overwhelmingly positive.

"They know Chinese travellers make up the second biggest number of travellers into New Zealand and so keeping the travellers' needs and preferences in mind will benefit the whole South Island."

Christchurch Airport CEO Jim Boult says the China travel market has changed in recent years.

"Chinese travellers have "discovered" the South Island and want to spend more time here, travel more comfortably, see our iconic scenery and experience the various offerings," he says. "These travellers are looking for a quality southern experience, so operators want to understand how to make that the best it can be."

Tourism West Coast chief executive Jim Little says he's already hearing success stories from the workshops.

"One Franz Josef motelier had their website translated into Chinese at a significant cost, but reports it paid for itself within 48 hours," he says.  "A major Hokitika retailer has all staff learning Chinese phrases and is already seeing it paying dividends."

Destination Marlborough general manager Tracy Johnston agrees.

"I've had nothing but positive feedback to the workshops, with operators saying it is one of the best they've ever attended," she says. "Some have told me their only regret is not sending every staff member."

Jim Boult has no doubt the number of Chinese travellers coming south will grow.

"The South Island has what these travellers want to see - mountains, lakes, glaciers, wide open spaces, big blue skies - and travellers come looking for the places they see in the travel brochures. At the moment, the South Island only sees 25% of Chinese arrivals into New Zealand, but more are coming south."

He says more are also beginning to explore areas off the beaten track and seeking South Island places to do that.

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