New Zealand and Australia have quite a few things in common: they’re both English-speaking former British colonies in Oceania. Since they’re also both a short flight away from China, they share another key trait: they’re both in fierce competition to attract high-spending Chinese tourists.
As the number of outbound Chinese tourists grows every year, the two countries’ proximity to China puts them both in a prime position to attract this lucrative group of visitors. As a result, their tourism authorities and businesses have been competing to develop marketing strategies that will appeal in China to wealthy and middle-class travelers. While both countries emphasize their natural resources, including beautiful scenery, wildlife, and wine-producing regions, Australia has more to offer for China’s ultra-wealthy with its luxe Gold Coast accommodations and gambling options.
Both countries were among the first to receive “Approved Destination Status” (ADS) from the Chinese government in 1999, but Australia is far ahead of New Zealand for a total number of Chinese tourists. The country had 709,000 Chinese visitors in 2013 with a year-on-year growth rate of 14.5 percent, while New Zealand trailed behind with 226,000 Chinese tourists from July 2012 to June 2013. New Zealand seems to be gaining an edge, however: it has seen a higher growth rate of 16.7 percent for the year ending in March 2014.
Nature and agriculture are a major part of both countries’ China promotional efforts. Statistics released by Tourism New Zealand find that Chinese visitors enjoy New Zealand’s relaxed lifestyle, fresh air, and outdoor activities: 66 percent visited a farm during their trip, and 83 percent visited gardens. In 2013, Tourism New Zealand invited Chinese actress Yao Chen to hold her wedding in New Zealand in order to promote its natural scenery as a great spot for a destination wedding. It also touts its clean air and water with its “Pure New Zealand” campaign advertised on Weibo, which is likely to appeal to residents of smog-choked Chinese cities. With its kangaroos, outback, and abundant vineyards, Australia is touting its own nature- and agriculture-themed tourism. The country invites a China Industry Advisory Group to visit every year and tour popular locations such as the country’s top wine regions and Kangaroo Island.
While Australia also offers many attractions further on the luxury end for wealthier visitors, New Zealand skews more middle-class. Ultra-wealthy Chinese travelers listed Australia as their number one travel destination and New Zealand as their number 10 in this year’s Hurun Report, but a January Travelzoo survey of middle-class customers found that New Zealand had risen to fourth place and Australia had dropped to seventh on the list of top locales to visit compared to last year. New Zealand serves as a prime destination to set up shop for retailers in the accessible luxury segment—49 percent of all Chinese tourists arrive in the country on shopping tour groups, according to Tourism New Zealand. Meanwhile, in Australia, luxury villas, high-rises, and hotels on the Gold Coast of Australia attract rich Chinese property buyers and vacationers alike. Australia isn’t ignoring China’s middle class, however. Australian casino companies such as gambling giant Crown are closely eyeing the growth of this income segment.
New Zealand has a strong chance of gaining on its neighbor in terms of attracting Chinese visitors. When it comes to which countries leave Chinese visitors most satisfied, New Zealand was found to be the best on a list of 22 countries in a survey by the China Tourism Academy released in April, edging out Australia’s rank of fourth.