New Horizons

We have very much enjoyed helping South Island tourism operators work in China over the past year.

We launched the New Horizons Fund at TRENZ in May 2015, offering $100,000 to help regional South Island tourism operators capture the abundance of opportunities from the growing China market. We wanted to identify operators we could help tailor their offering for Chinese visitors, take it to China on our "Kia Ora South" missions and then watch the visitors have a much higher quality experience in Our Place in the World.

As a result, we have worked with four who offer world-class and distinctive southern experiences.

The Hanmer Springs China Cluster is a group of 11 companies working together with a focus on the Chinese market and developing packages to promote the Hanmer experience, which we know Chinese visitors enjoy.

Marlborough Tour Company promotes unique experiences throughout the Marlborough wine region and the Marlborough Sounds, focussing on specialised wine and food experiences in unique settings on land and on water.

Ultimate Wanaka showcases the untapped and glacial regions of Lake Wanaka and the Matukituki Valley, with a range of helicopter, boat, four-wheel drive and guided walking tours.

Wilsons Abel Tasman is a long established family business which offers sea kayaking, cruises and walking in the Abel Tasman at the top of the South Island.

All four companies told of their interest in working in the China market and their fear of not knowing how to do so. They credit our programme with giving them mentoring, work information, training, confidence and a trip to China to talk to hundreds of travel agents about what they offer Chinese visitors.

All four now have collateral and information on their website translated into Mandarin, some have employed Mandarin-speaking staff, they have tailored and re-shaped their offering to suit what they now understand Chinese visitors can manage. As a result, all are seeing a steep increase in visitors and future bookings, based on much more successful interaction with Chinese agents and visitors.

An example of the impact of this work was given by the Hanmer Springs team, which told of businesses' concerns about Chinese behaviour. Our Shanghai-based staff member helped them understand why Chinese visitors do things the way they do and what Kiwi hosts could do to cross the cultural divide. These days, those behaviours are addressed by a simple guest guideline sheet translated into the language the guests understand. As a result, the Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools had 11,000 Asian visitors in 2014 and are on track to welcome 40,000 this year.