Waikato tipped to cash in on rise in Chinese tourism

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Chinese travellers are spending nearly a third of their income on international travel and Waikato is seeing the benefit.

The sixth annual Chinese International Travel Monitor(CITM) released by Hotels.com has revealed that Chinese travellers are spending on average a whopping 28 percent of their income on international travel. They also intend to spend 10 percent more on travel in the next 12 months, with New Zealand ranked number seven for most desired global destination, up five places from 2016.

Hamilton & Waikato Tourism chief executive Jason Dawson confirms that Waikato is seeing a strong uplift in visitors staying their “first” or “last” nights in the region as visitors.

The trend has been growing as visitors make the most of cheaper accommodation and a chance to see Waikato attractions before returning to Auckland.

“This is a key message Hamilton & Waikato Tourism has been pushing for the past few years into our key markets and travel trade sector,” he says.

“China continues to be a key market for us as a region and we are seeing some good growth in ‘first or last’ nights from free independent travellers and groups including the China market.”

Regardless of many key indicators showing signs of a slowdown in the Chinese economy, this year’s CITM found spending on travel increased across all age brackets, with Chinese travellers spending US$3,600 in the last 12 months – more than a quarter of their income and an increase of four percent compared with the previous year. Nineties millennials are the biggest spenders, allocating 35 percent of their income to travel.

The rise of the Chinese ‘more generation’ is a key finding in Hotels.com’s sixth annual CITM report, with Chinese travellers of all age groups revealed as travelling more often and longer, visiting multiple cities per trip, and increasingly influenced by free and easy travel trends.

The CITM report reveals that tour buses and group travel are on their way out for Chinese travellers, with independent travel (51 percent), eco-tours (14 percent), and backpacking (12 percent), even among older age groups, on the rise. Shopping no longer holds the attraction it once did for Chinese travellers, taking a whopping 35 percent drop from last year. Dining (55 percent), sightseeing (53 percent) and rest and relaxation activities (41 percent) took out the top spots for daily expenditure by Chinese travellers.

The Hotels.com report revealed a gap in what Chinese guests want versus what hotels are providing, highlighting that, by making some adaptions to accommodate Chinese tourists, there is huge potential for New Zealand hotels to further tap into this market.

While Kiwi hotels are focusing their efforts on social media and marketing programs in a bid to attract Chinese travellers, the investment in on-site services for Chinese guests has decreased according to the Hotels.com data, with less than one per cent spending more than $10,000.

The report identified key areas where hotels could improve their services, according to Chinese travellers:

• In-house Mandarin speaking staff was ranked number one by travellers but was low on the list for NZ hoteliers, with only 17 percent currently offering the service and eight percent planning to in the next 12 months.
• Chinese payment facilities at hotels, such as Union Pay, rank second for consumers in importance, yet only 12 percent of NZ hotels currently offer these facilities. Indeed, only 18 percent intend to offer them in the next 12 months.
• Translated travel guides were ranked number four by travellers but are a low in priority for hoteliers; 24 percent currently offering this and only five percent planning to in future.

Jason Dawson says the three tips are good, although quite basic.

“In terms of China Union Pay, it can be a bit trickier to set up and expensive, so you would need to pushing through significant numbers to recoup the benefit,” he says.

Hotels.com marketing manager for Australia and New Zealand, David Spasovic says the New Zealand tourism industry needs to cater to the new generation of Chinese traveller.

“Chinese travellers make up New Zealand’s second largest inbound tourist market with nearly 400,000 visiting New Zealand in 2016. And as the number of Chinese travellers grows so too do their expectations of new, more adventurous and diverse travel offerings.

“It is important that hoteliers continue to adapt to the evolving needs of this market and develop tailored hotel services that tap into the enormous spending power of Chinese travellers. Hotels.com is proud to partner with accommodation providers who work hard to ensure Chinese travellers get the most out of their Kiwi travel experience.”

In terms of hotel requirements, free Wi-Fi (78 percent), Chinese breakfasts (61 percent), and in-room kettles (31 percent) are still the top requests by Chinese travellers. Interestingly, other observed requests from Chinese travellers include slippers, instant noodles, Chinese TV programs and hotel level or room number preferences, and Feng Shui rooms.

The CITM research also identified that, while APAC is still the most popular destination (82 per cent have visited in the past 12 months), Chinese travellers showed a desire to travel even further than before, with countries such as France, the USA, Canada and Germany leaping in
popularity.

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Geoff Taylor

Waikato Business News editor Geoff Taylor. Email: geoff@wbn.co.nz

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