WELLINGTON, April 3 (Xinhua) -- New Zealand's government tourism agency is working with Chinese authorities to raise awareness of potential souvenir scams aimed at Asian tourists, a senior official told Xinhua Wednesday.
With two companies and two of their managers fined last month for mislabeling and overpricing "New Zealand-made" souvenirs and more prosecutions imminent, Tourism New Zealand was spreading the message that exploitation would not be tolerated, said general manager corporate affairs Chris Roberts.
"We have communicated with authorities in China and we believe Chinese visitors will be pleased to know that New Zealand does not tolerate exploitation of our international guests," Roberts said in an e-mail interview.
"These cases involved Chinese businesses exploiting Chinese and other Asian visitors, and we are working with the travel trade here and in China to raise awareness of the issue and of the companies and individuals involved."
Tourism New Zealand had shared feedback from tourists with New Zealand law enforcement authorities in the lead up to the convictions, which were announced by New Zealand's Commerce Commission on Tuesday.
The prosecutions followed an investigation that began when police, Customs and other law enforcement agencies raided 10 premises in the geothermal resort town of Rotorua and one in Auckland in August 2011.
Organized groups of tourists from Chinese mainland, South Korea and Taiwan had been taken to some of the premises and sold items such as alpaca rugs and merino or alpaca duvets, said a statement from the commission.
Top Sky Holdings Ltd. was fined 140,000 NZ dollars (117,805 U.S. dollars) and its managing consultant Haidong Chen was fined 24,500 NZ dollars after the company's Rotorua shop offered alpaca rugs imported from Peru that had been re-labeled as "Alpaca New Zealand, 100% Baby Alpaca, proudly made in New Zealand by Alpaca New Zealand."
The rugs were priced between 4,000 and 8,000 NZ dollars each when Peruvian alpaca rugs are sold elsewhere for between 1,000 and 1,600 NZ dollars each.
Kiwi Wool Ltd. was fined 84,000 NZ dollars and its managing director Jinming Chen was fined 10,500 NZ dollars for making and selling wool duvets with labels stating they were "100% pure alpaca wool" when the alpaca wool content was just 20 percent, or that they were "100% New Zealand merino lamb wool," when the wool content was not merino.
The duvets cost about 70 NZ dollars to make and they were sold to tourists for between 400 NZ dollars and 1,000 NZ dollars.
"The inbound tour operators are well aware of this issue and that the New Zealand authorities will not tolerate our international visitors being misled," said Roberts.
The agency was also working with the Chinese travel trade on its Premier Kiwi Partnership (PKP) program, which offered itineraries for Chinese visitors with no organized shopping permitted.
Any visitor who felt they had been unfairly treated was advised to first seek a resolution with the company that sold them the product, before initiating legal action in New Zealand if they felt it was warranted, he said.
"We would encourage all visitors to ask lots of questions and shop around before making any major purchase. Completing research on-line regarding a planned purchase is always advisable," said Roberts.
"Unfortunately the very act of relabeling products makes it hard for visitors to identify genuine products, which is why Tourism New Zealand is delighted that individuals and companies have been held to account for illegal practices."
The next edition of Tourism New Zealand's Chinese language information guide available at airports would carry specific warnings about illegal practices, he said.