Christchurch welcomes visitors to country's first multi-lingual airport

Christchurch Airport is ensuring Asian visitors feel welcome through installing signage in English, Chinese, Japanese and Korean - a first for any international airport in the country.

Christchurch Airport chief executive Jim Boult says the new signs are part of on-going work to make the airport environment even friendlier for international visitors.

"As a leader in the tourism industry, we've taken a proactive approach to rolling out multi-lingual signage through our terminal," says Mr Boult.

"Providing Chinese, Japanese and Korean language versions of our signage throughout the airport reflects the changing nature of tourism to Christchurch and the South Island," he says.

Mr Boult says the multi-lingual static and electronic displays are part of a broader strategy to encourage greater engagement with key visitor markets. Alongside business development initiatives for the Asia Pacific region, airport staff will soon learn a few basic phrases in other languages to help them communicate with a wider range of visitors.

"This work reflects where future growth in visitor volumes to this region will come from," he says.  "We're seeing steadily returning numbers from both Japan and South Korea, while the Chinese market is growing significantly."

Christchurch Airport is the gateway for 81% of international arrivals into the South Island, plus many more domestic arrivals are international visitors. In the past year, of the international and domestic travellers using Christchurch airport, about 80 thousand visitors arrived in Christchurch from China (an increase of almost 20 per cent), almost 37-thousand visitors travelled from Korea and more than 75-thousand from Japan. Last year's successful Japanese charter programme and increases in Chinese and Korean arrivals has seen on-going growth from Asian markets.

Mr Boult says the airport is working closely with the tourism industry and several airline representatives in China, but believes the market is yet to truly discover the South Island.

"We are just scratching the surface in terms of the market's potential and know Asian visitors want to visit," he says. "The feedback from visitors and the industry is excellent and underlines that the South Island is the reason many Asian travellers visit New Zealand."

While the multi-lingual signage is designed to make international visitors feel more at home in the new airport terminal, Jim Boult says Christchurch's growing Chinese and Korean communities also appreciate the initiative.

"We're an increasingly diverse community in Christchurch, as many people move here for education, business and employment, particularly associated with the rebuild. New Kiwis with family overseas find our welcoming gateway to their new home helps them feel part of the community.

Mr Boult says he hopes the airport's new approach will be embraced by the industry as a way of ensuring the region appeals to key visitor markets.

"The Asia region is an increasingly important part of the future for Christchurch and the South Island, for travel and tourism as well as exports," says Jim Boult. "These markets have incredible potential for our region and we all need to be doing everything we can to ensure we appeal to and welcome them."

Airport staff are also signing up to personally welcome overseas visitors.

"Our staff across the airport campus collectively speak 19 different languages and have registered their language skills, so they can be called on to assist travellers. It's just another way we are working hard on bringing the world South."


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