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Address to the New Zealand Asian Leaders Forum

Hon Todd McClay
Associate Minister of Tourism

Address to the New Zealand Asian Leaders Forum

Thank you Mai Chen for the introduction and thank you also to the New Zealand Asian Leaders organisation for inviting me here to speak at the inaugural Asian Leaders Forum.

While I have only recently been appointed in the role of Associate Minister of Tourism, I have been the MP for Rotorua since 2008 so I am well aware of the value of tourism and the increasing opportunities that Asia presents. I would like to talk briefly about these today.

I also look forward to hearing from the other speakers; Kerry Prendergast, Lisa Li and Dr Ann Zhou; about their perspectives on tourism.

Tourism numbers between New Zealand and Asia

We are seeing excellent growth in two-way travel between New Zealand and Asia. Last year the number of Asian visitors increased by 10 per cent from 2012, to a total of over 560,000. Spending by Asian visitors for this period increased 34 per cent to $1.6 billion.

China is our fastest growing major visitor market, with 228,000 visitors in 2013, an increase of 16 per cent over last year. Over the past five years China visitor numbers have grown 123 per cent.

Importantly for New Zealand, this growth has come at a time when some of our more traditional markets, such as the USA, the UK and Germany, have been stagnant or in decline.

Tourism forecasts by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s anticipate that the number of Asian visitors to New Zealand will continue to grow at around 8.5 per cent per year between now and the end of 2019. Yearly visitor numbers from China, Japan and South Korea, our three main visitor markets in Asia, are forecast to reach 400,000 visitors by the end of 2015, and 564,000 visitors by the end of 2019.

We are also seeing an increase in the number of New Zealanders travelling to Asian countries. In 2013 over 329,000 New Zealanders travelled directly into Asia, an increase of 6 per cent from 2012. As we continue to build economic and cultural relationships with the Asian region, this number will grow further.

New Zealand is well served with direct air services into key travel hubs located in Asia. As a country we need to ensure our air connections continue to facilitate growth in two-way travel, and the additional trade opportunities they also bring.

Business Growth Agenda and Government initiatives

Through our Business Growth Agenda (BGA), the government is working to encourage business innovation and build stronger economic growth for New Zealand, with a specific goal of lifting our exports to 40 per cent of GDP by 2025.

New Zealand’s prosperity depends on our ability to form strong links around the world, and in particular, the rising wealth of Pacific Rim countries presents a significant opportunity for New Zealand.

The government is investing an additional $158 million into tourism over four years as part of our internationally focused growth package. This includes $44.5 million to attract visitors from emerging markets like Indonesia and India to ensure that New Zealand is well positioned to take advantage of the growth potential of these markets.

We are also continuing to improve visitor facilitation through changes to immigration and visa processing. This includes:

improving multi-entry visitor visas for China, which have been extended from 12 months to 24 months;
a reciprocal Chinese multiple-entry business visa, which allows business visitors to travel between China and New Zealand more easily and often; and
the establishment of a new online immigration system, which will offer visa application information in a number of Asian languages. This will reduce the language barrier faced by potential Asian visitors to New Zealand, and speed up visa processing times.

The government has implemented a number of initiatives to support tourism businesses engaging with the China visitor market. These include a ‘toolkit’ of information for tourism businesses on how to meet the needs of Chinese visitors, and the China Market Information Programme, under which the government will co-invest with industry in research on the needs and preferences of Chinese visitors.

While the initial focus is on China, the government wants to apply what we have learned from China to other new Asian markets to ensure we realise the full potential value for New Zealand tourism, and deliver the best value to our visitors.

Film industry in New Zealand and China

As we’ve seen with the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit, films can be incredibly successful in showcasing a destination. Tourism New Zealand has leveraged the landscapes and adventures of these films to promote New Zealand’s natural beauty. We’ve also seen film locations and facilities become tourism attractions in their own right. Attractions such as the Weta Workshop cave, Hobbiton and various Lord of The Rings or Hobbit tours show visitors how those films and others (such as Avatar or Tintin) were bought to life thanks to Kiwi creativity.

The film co-production agreement between New Zealand and China provides opportunities to further strengthen our trade and cultural relationship with China, while helping to boost the film industry in both countries.

Films can apply for the status of ‘official co-productions’, which entitles them to the benefits accorded to national films in both China and New Zealand. For example, ‘Downside Story’, an animated family film set in Hong Kong, has gained co-production status with China and will be available in both English and Mandarin.

New Zealand currently has 14 bilateral film co-production agreements with countries in Europe and Asia, including China, Korea and India. New Zealand and Chinese authorities are currently negotiating a television co-production agreement, which if successful would make New Zealand the first country to have such a television agreement with China.

Leadership within the tourism sector

Tourism in New Zealand has a history of innovation and a ‘can-do’ attitude. Leaders such as AJ Hackett and Henry Van Asch, who saw the potential of bungy-jumping, have helped to cement New Zealand’s reputation as an adventure tourism destination.

But the global tourism environment is rapidly shifting – and the next generation of leaders will be those that recognise and respond to these shifts. You are in a good position, as New Zealand Asian Leaders, to use your knowledge and insight to realise the opportunities available now.

The rising wealth in the Pacific Rim presents a significant opportunity for New Zealand. Our success will depend on industry leaders who can take advantage of this – who have the patience and commitment to establish relationships in offshore markets, who invest in better understanding the needs of different market segments, and who can develop the activities, accommodation, shopping, and food and wine experiences for these different segments.

We also need leaders who can see the value of collaboration – as a country of 4.5 million people on the edge of the world; we can’t afford not to be working together.

And the government can help.

Through the Tourism Growth Partnership, the government is investing $8 million per year to partner with businesses on projects that will lift innovation and productivity, to increase the value of international tourism to New Zealand.

The Tourism Growth Partnership (TGP) is a contestable co-investment scheme, with the government investing on an up to dollar for dollar basis with industry. In order to qualify for government investment, projects must innovate to meet the demand of higher value visitors, including visitors from Asia, or lift the overall productivity of the tourism sector.

The TGP has gone through its first application round, and successful applicants are progressing towards receiving co-investment. We expect to begin calling for applicants to the second TGP funding round in April this year.

There are significant opportunities ahead to grow tourism between New Zealand and Asia. I hope you can help to make this happen. Thank you.


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