Christchurch Airport has notched up
another month of strong growth in international arrivals in May,
taking its annual visitor arrival growth between July and May to
8.5 per cent, compared to the national total of -5.8 per cent for
the same time period.
Christchurch Airport grew its Chinese
arrivals by 26.6% in May alone, driven by the Labour Day holiday in
China and more direct airline capacity, against a national picture
Chief Aeronautical and Commercial
Officer Justin Watson says statistics show Christchurch is bucking
the national trend because of the appeal the South Island has
amongst high value Chinese free and independent (FIT) travellers.
These same travellers stay longer and spend more than the national
"Our performance in many cases is very
different from the national performance and our Chinese numbers are
particularly strong," he says, crediting the South programme which
has been running for more than five years, supported by the all the
regions of the South Island and national agencies.
"The strong demand from the China market
to experience the South Island has seen China Southern Airlines
increase its seat numbers into Christchurch in the past two
financial years by 50%.
"One of the reasons for Christchurch's
positive figures is that through South, we deliberately set out to
target high value FIT travellers. These travellers are highly
beneficial for the South Island, because they travel more widely to
the regions, do more while they're here, tend to be younger
(25-35), and become great ambassadors for the South Island. It's
fantastic to see these positive results from our well-planned and
targeted strategy, which has been incredibly well supported by the
regions and tourism businesses of the South Island".
Watson says the strategy of targeting
high value segments in China was triggered by needing to do things
differently to recover post quakes - Auckland was the volume play
for New Zealand, Christchurch needed to be the value
"Attracting these market segments has
been a result of deliberate early market research, which identified
specific niches to go after in China. We have worked with China
Southern Airlines to attract those niches and spent five years
executing the strategy with South Island regions and over 40 of its
tourism businesses and operators.
"Kia Ora South sees the airport, key
regional tourism organisations and tourism operators from the South
Island host promotional events and trade missions in China, to
collectively promote the South Island to key Chinese FIT travel
sellers in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou," he says.
"This year's events were supported by
Tourism New Zealand, New Zealand Trade & Enterprise, Ministry
of Foreign Affairs, China Southern Airlines, Air New Zealand and
attended by Minister of Tourism Kelvin Davis.
"For the first time, Kia Ora South
featured snow focused activity in New Zealand, to appeal to younger
Chinese about to experience the Beijing winter
Christchurch Airport's Alibaba programme
was established to help South Island businesses operate on the
digital platforms these visitors use. It's about targeting value,
capturing value and adding value. Christchurch Airport is now the
largest marketing partner of Alibaba's Alipay in New
"Our partnership with Alibaba allows
Chinese visitors to pay via their mobile phones, use apps they are
familiar with at home. This results in both South Island operators
and Chinese visitors making every interaction the best it can be,
with visitors getting best value and the most memorable experiences
from their time in New Zealand."
China Southern Airlines general manager
in Christchurch, Rebecca Huang, says the Christchurch connection is
proving valuable for the airline.
"The Christchurch-Guangzhou direct
connection continues to perform well for us - so much so, that it
is currently our airline's top performing connection and is the
only route between China and Australia/New Zealand which has
increased over winter".