AUCKLAND, New Zealand, April 22 (Xinhua) -- New Zealand's government tourism agency is to accelerate the rollout of its marketing campaign in China thanks to a boost in government funding, Tourism New Zealand chief executive Kevin Bowler said Monday.
The agency launched its Premier Kiwi Partnership (PKP) program at the start of the year, helping Chinese travel agents produce quality holiday itineraries of seven to 10 days for travelers who wanted to come just to New Zealand, rather than see the country as an add-on to an Australian trip.
But Prime Minister and Tourism Minister John Key announced last week that this year's government budget, to be published in May, would see an extra 158 million NZ dollars (133.21 million U.S. dollars) spent over four years to promote New Zealand as a tourist destination in growth markets such as China and Latin America.
Bowler told Xinhua in an exclusive interview Monday that the extra funding would allow Tourism New Zealand to expand the PKP program even "further and faster" from the 18 China-based travel agencies it was already working with.
"The first visitors on PKP itineraries came in February this year, so it's still very new, but we're really pleased with having the opportunity to grow it even faster," Bowler said at the annual TRENZ New Zealand tourism showcase in Auckland.
"And the other area we're looking to do more investment in is southern China, and Hong Kong in particular, where there's extra seat capacity not just on China Southern Airlines (flying direct from Guangzhou), but also on Air New Zealand from Hong Kong."
He also said the anticipated boom in visitors from China was opening up investment opportunities in the New Zealand tourism sector.
Around 200,000 Chinese visitors arrived last year, but, Bowler admitted, accommodation was tight in the peak months of January and February, the height of the southern summer.
"We could easily achieve a huge number of Chinese visitors, but the main focus is on quality," he said.
"Definitely in January and February, New Zealand's accommodation is under a lot of pressure, so for visitors who want to come at that time, it's important that they book. Outside those couple of peak months actually there's quite a lot of capacity -- we have a lot of ability to grow, but not so much in January and February.
"But of course there's a great opportunity for investors to look at New Zealand and start to think about where they can put investments to increase that capacity as well."
The fastest growing segment of the Chinese tourist market was " mono-New Zealand" -- visitors coming just to New Zealand and not to Australia and New Zealand -- and that was increasing the average length of stay by both tour groups and independent travelers.
"Around 30 percent of our visitors are staying and getting a great experience in New Zealand -- not just having two or three nights and a year ago that was only 20 percent," said Bowler.
And he welcomed the convictions this month of two souvenir companies and two of their executives for deliberately mislabeling and overcharging for so-called "made in New Zealand products" that were sold to Chinese and other Asian visitors.
"We feel very strongly that visitors should be given a fair go and that they should be buying products at a fair price and that the products should be labeled accurately," he said.
"We think that all our legislation to protect Chinese visitors is strong, but it needs to be enforced so seeing this enforcement in recent weeks has been something that we've been supportive of."
"It's very, very important that when Chinese visitors are in New Zealand that they get free time to shop wherever they want to shop, and I think that's one of the reasons why we see the PKP program as offering so much value because those itineraries provide plenty of time for free shopping."