Rotorua Weekender: China – Trade and Tourism to grow

Friday, October 2, 2015

Rotorua has a long and warm relationship with China, and is home to many third and fourth generation Chinese people – as well as more recent arrivals to our district. In addition to those living here, over 80 per cent of the 300,000 Chinese tourists that visited New Zealand in the 12 months to June visited Rotorua during their visit. This has huge benefits to our local tourism, retail, and accommodation owners and operators, and represents a significant amount of investment to our local economy.

China is the world’s largest economy, with its growth over the last 20 years supporting many economies around the world. It’s an important market for Kiwi businesses, products, and services. In fact in 2013, China overtook Australia to become our largest trading partner – thanks to the Free Trade Agreement that New Zealand signed in 2008. Trade between our two countries now amounts to $19.3 billion – up from $2 billion when the deal was signed. This includes exports for important local industries such as tourism, forestry, and agriculture.

I have just returned from China, where I represented New Zealand at the Second New Zealand-China Partnership Forum. The relationship between our two countries is as warm as ever, built on successful relationships at Government level, right down to partnerships between businesses and industries in China and New Zealand.

It’s important we keep our existing links with China strong, as well as developing new relationships. While overseas I met with the Mayor of our Chinese sister city Wuzhong, Madame Jin Jie, to discuss how our two districts can work more closely together. I raised with her the prospect of Chinese people studying English in Rotorua, as an appetite grows for Chinese people to develop English as a second language. We agreed that officials will look at ways to enable this and I hope to see more fee paying language students in our city soon.

The new Chinese Community of Commerce was launched this week, and will allow local industry leaders to come together and work alongside their peers in China. This will be an important and welcome addition to us locally, to bring our local Chinese community together and discuss how Rotorua can tailor goods and services to best suit their market.

While in Beijing, I gave a keynote address at a tourism forum to a number of key players in the Chinese tourism industry. I spoke about Rotorua’s growing appeal to Chinese visitors and the role this could play in the further growth and development of our local tourism industry.

I also spoke about the need for local tourism operators in Rotorua and China to work together, to ensure the best experience for those visiting our district. This will be important for the success of our industry as Rotorua could be in line for triple the amount of Chinese visitors over the next five years. Visitors to New Zealand are expected to reach 570,000 people per year by 2020 spending $2.6b. This is up from 110,000 five years ago.

This is a significant increase in tourists visiting New Zealand and in particular will see more free independent travels coming here. To ensure that we attract a fair bulk of them to Rotorua, it’s important we continue to be recognised as a high quality tourism destination. It’s also important that we continue to offer a uniquely kiwi experience, catering to tourists from all parts of the world, something that we have a long history of doing exceptionally well.

By creating and maintaining links between China and Rotorua, we stand in the best position to capitalise on China’s strong growth. As their middle class continues to grow, we will see more demand for the things that we do well. This will ultimately mean more jobs and opportunities for local people.