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How to engage with Chinese visitors

By Jie Li, China Marketing Executive, Christchurch & Canterbury Tourism

17 December 2015

It will be a busy summer as we welcome the year round direct flights between Guangzhou and Christchurch by China Southern starting today, 16 December. China Eastern also fly 4 times per week between Shanghai and Auckland since 26 September, and Air China started their daily flight between Beijing and Auckland on 10 December.

These additional direct services between China and NZ enable the growing middle class from the three metropolises (a total population of 60 million) in China see NZ as a destination that is not as far as it used to be. In response to this rapidly growing market, we’ve put together some information of how to make your business more "China ready."

We have broken the suggestions down by product category:

  • Attractions and activities
  • Accommodation
  • Food and Wine
  • Shopping 

Attractions and activities

Research tells us that Chinese FITs are more likely to take part in free activities such as visiting Hagley Park, Cathedral Square, walking and stargazing while visiting Christchurch and Canterbury. The Canterbury region also has many paid activities appealing to Chinese tourists, from Punting on the Avon to hot pools, from farm tours to sea wildlife encounters, from scenic trains to hot air ballooning, to name but a few.

Here are a few tips to help you better understand the Chinese tourists and trade buyers.

  1. The shorter the better: Shorter and condensed activities are generally more suitable for the Chinese tourists considering they have only 8-10 days in New Zealand. Unlike the traditional markets, Chinese find it is not worth the time and money on a single activity the whole day or half a day. It is better that an activity is within 2-3 hours. If you have more than one product, it is advised that you offer a combo package so that Chinese tourists can have a taste of different activities. 
  2. Photo opportunities: We can’t say enough about how much the Chinese tourists love taking photos. Chinese visitors take photos everywhere they go, whatever they see, do and eat on holiday. Some are more interested in taking photos on arrival a site rather than listening to commentary first, especially if it’s delivered in English. We take blue sky, blue waters, flock of sheep, herd of cows, vast grassland, and empty and endless roads for granted and see them as ordinary, which are extraordinary to Chinese tourists and loved by them and their cameras. So always give them enough photo time and opportunities including selfies or help take photos for a single traveller or a couple. An activities or attraction without photo opportunities may be least favoured by the Chinese tourists as said recently by a Chinese tourist in his travel blog, where he says that visiting glowworm cave is not fun at all only because photo is not allowed. Once the photos or short video clips are taken, the Chinese love sharing on their social media immediately. 
  3. Chinese social media: Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube are blocked in mainland China, where they use equivalent social channels such as Weibo, Wechat, and Youku. You may start with Weibo, which is an open social media platform and can be searched by key words online. If you don't have Chinese staff, some media/translation company in NZ can offer the services of setting up and running an account on a regular basis. Access to WIFI on site enables Chinese visitors to share their photos and videos online immediately even before they return to hotels.
  4. Chinese collaterals and websites: There is a high demand for Chinese collateral from both Chinese visitors and the travel trade. Operators may start with translated brochures/flyers and a page of website in simplified Chinese. Chinese tourists and trade buyers may be not confident enough to use the products without proper Chinese information. It is also of great importance that some information and instructions are in Chinese so that it would be easy for Chinese tourists to follow, especially for cruise tours, water activities and adventures with regard to safety issue. Chinese signage is also welcome on site. 
  5. Online travel agencies: An increasing of Chinese FITs are using online travel platforms to search and book activities before they depart. If you want to get your business known to more Chinese, you can work with key Chinese online travel agencies by starting with the eight officially appointed Online Travel Partners by Tourism New Zealand in China: Qyer.com, Ctrip.com, qunar.com, alitrip.com, ly.com, booking.com, woqu.com, and baicheng.com. Sometimes it may take time and have to go through complicated procedures to be listed in China so you may work with a Chinese travel operator that have been listed on these online travel platforms. 
  6. Guanxi and trade activities: Guanxi (more than relationship, connection, networking, resource, influence and favouritism) is a key Chinese cultural concept. Guanxi is among families, friends, colleagues, fellow-townsmen and alumni, both directly and indirectly. For example, a relative’s friend’s schoolmate is also a guanxi which people endeavour to look for and to establish to make things easily done in China. As a Chinese saying goes “Strangers at the first meeting but friends at the second”, it is rewarding to attend several trade activities, meet with the trade and do repeated sales calls with your Chinese buyers. Please remember it takes time to build a closer and stronger guanxi with Chinese buyers, but once it is built, you will see continuous and growing business from China. You can contact us for Chinese inbound operator information.


Here are some points that you may find to be of some help before you welcome the Chinese visitors.

  1. Types of accommodation offerings: Chinese tourists are quite familiar with facilities and services offered by hotels and budget hotels, but always get more excited about a fully-equipped kitchen in a motel or the kiwi hospitality they are offered in a B&B as motels, B&B, farm stay, lodges and holiday parks are quite new forms of accommodation to them. There is a high demand of farm tour and farm stay from Chinese FITs as they see these as real kiwi experiences.
  2. Terms and conditions: Chinese usually don’t have a good read through the Terms and Conditions before they sign, especially in English, which may result in some disputes. So make sure some key points are highlighted or get them into Chinese, such as the cancellation policy. 
  3. Child/extra guests: Those who travel with children may book a room for adults only but fail to indicate the number of children travelling with. It’s not uncommon that young children share bed with parents in China and as the rate are charged per room in China. It is usually of guests’ own decision to accommodate one, two or three in a room. So guests should be well informed of whether children are welcome at your property and any possible cost for an extra bed for the child. 
  4. Room policy and signage: It is useful to have signage in bilingual forms regarding smoking, noise restrictions and kitchen policy. If you think the signage may look not friendly, make sure you also have “welcome”, “Have a nice stay”, “A home away from home” in Chinese. Please contact us for signage translation if needed.
    • It is still quite common in China that people smoke indoors so make sure guests are informed at all times that smoking is not allowed inside your property. 
    • A group of Chinese may like to play poker and make noise late at night so it is better to let them know that guests need to keep quiet after a specific time. 
    • Some Chinese would like to cook (fry or deep fry) by themselves which might include some exotic smells (seafood, garlic, curry and some spices etc) which could lingers for quite a long time. A kind reminder in your kitchen may save you some troubles.
    • Chinese are not used to drying the dishes by towels as they think there must be heaps of bacteria or germs on the towels, which are not washed as often and are mainly used to clean the table in China. We find lots of Chinese tourists put the wet dishes or cutlery in the cupboard or drawers. You can ask us for Chinese signage so that Chinese can do as kiwis do.
    • Squatting toilets are commonly seen in China and some Chinese are more used to squatting rather than sittting on the toilet seats, which they think may not be clean enough. You can ask us for signage so that Chinese tourists don't sit on the toilet seats. 
  5. Chinese-friendly items: Chinese guests usually expect there are slippers, toothpaste, toothbrushes, kettle and rice cooker in each room. So if you don’t have these, make sure you have some spare ones at the reception for rental use or sell.
  6. Wi-Fi: Free Wi-Fi is expected by Chinese guests. It is advisable that you offer free Wi-Fi or at least limited cost Wi-Fi access to your guests. Chinese spend plenty of their time on mobile phones rather in a bar or watching TV (especially if there are no Chinese language channels), so the free Wi-Fi enables them to feel connected and to post their travel photos immediately on their social channels. 
  7. Booking: A majority of Chinese tourists book accommodation before arriving in Christchurch with 69% through a travel website and 20% direct to suppliers (from recent CCT research). TNZ’s eight key Online Travel Partners in China are good points of contact. Explore some time on these website or contact us for more information. 

Food and Wine

Chinese are quite particular about the food while on holiday. If you see more Chinese/Asian visitors, it is time to review your menu and add some Asian/Chinese options if possible. CCT Chinese visitor research tells us that while 62% would like both Kiwi and Chinese food on holiday, 27% prefer to Chinese food only in NZ. It’s not uncommon that some Chinese would rather have a cup of noodles at hotel rooms instead after they are fed enough by foreign food. 

  1. Hot food and drinks: The Chinese expect a cup of hot water or tea rather than a bottle of iced water before the meal is served, even in summer sometimes. There is no denying that younger FITs are open to different kinds of food, but cold sandwiches or hot dogs always fails to please Chinese tourists, who would like more of steamed rice (Sunrise median grain preferably rather than the brown rice or long grain), fried Asian vegetables, Chinese dumplings and wonton soup. Chinese would like to have hot milk for the breakfast, hot food or buffet for lunch and dinner. If you offer buffet, it is advisable that Chinese tourists are given a reminder or aware of signage as they may take more than they can eat.
  2. Fondness for freshness: The Chinese have a particular passion for having the food cooked fresh. Live chicken, fish or seafood are for sale in markets in China, where customers preferred to have sellers kill them onsite rather than buy processed meat or fish. Some Chinese complain that mussels are the only food that they can buy alive in New Zealand. Chinese believe freshness means tastiness, safety and nutrition. That explains why sea fishing tour is so popular to Chinese tourists that they love to have the fish or crayfish cooked right after being caught by themselves. 
  3. Green Asian vegetables: Chinese love to have vegetables, especially green leaf vegetables including bok choy, spinach, Chinese cabbage and celery for their meals every day. They think those vegetables help balance their diet and are good for digestion. Vegetables are usually quick fried and served hot. 
  4. Translated menu: It is ideal that you have a Chinese translated menu with some Chinese friendly options together with some authentic kiwi cuisine. The English/French words on a menu are Greek to most Chinese so they usually feel awkward when deciding what to order. 
  5. Foodstagramming: Chinese may beat anyone else in the world in foodstagramming as they are so obsessed with taking pictures of food before they eat and sharing on their social media channels. So access to free WIFI onsite means that you will easily get your message (your stylish food) out. But if you don’t like flashes and want to keep your beautiful dishes secret, you’d better have a signage beside tables.
  6. Noise problem: If you have a group of Chinese dining at your restaurant, you may find that they talk and laugh loudly. The Chinese see a quiet restaurant not attractive or popular but suffocating or boring. If you think this does not fit the ambience of your restaurant, it is not bad to give the guide a kind reminder. 
  7. Diet requirement: Most Chinese may have never heard of gluten free before. There is usually no gluten free, vegetarian or dairy free options on a menu in China as most Chinese are okay with all different kinds of ingredients, but it always saves you trouble if you ask before they order. Besides, you may also need to ask whether they are happy with cheese, seafood, fatty meats or some non-Asian spices. 


We don’t like shopping tours but we do love the Chinese tourists shopping on holiday in New Zealand. The growing middle class in China have incredible purchase power and New Zealand has lots to offer in this regard.

  1. Popular goods: Some food safety scandals in recent years have lasting effect on Chinese consumers’ confidence on products made in China. That explains why dairy products (milk powder, baby formulas and yogurt powder), honey, health supplements (e.g. fish oil, bee pollen capsules and deer blood capsules), chocolate and wine are top on Chinese tourists’ shopping lists. Besides, sheepskin, wool products, lotions, cosmetics, iconic kiwi souvenirs such as green stone, Maori crafts and paua shells are also liked by Chinese tourists. 
  2. Gifting: Different gifting cultures exist in China and New Zealand. While a package of chocolate may please your colleagues in your office in NZ, in China they usually need to buy separate gifts for each colleague in the same office and some more costly gifts for the bosses. Chinese also give gifts to their close friends, neighbours and relatives after they come back from a holiday. So if you could offer, say a “buy-5-get-1-free” discount, that will encourage the Chinese to buy more so that they have enough gifts to their kith and kin.
  3. Bargaining and discount: It is a common practice in China that buyers bargain with shop assistants before they find a happy price acceptable by both. So do not take it as an offensive or rude behaviour if a Chinese ask you whether there is any discount or a lower-than-the-marked price can be offered. Many Chinese are more interested in discounted products as they think it is not wise to buy products at their full prices. The haggling experience before a successful purchase of something at a lower-than-marked price always gives the Chinese a sense of accomplishment. Chinese love the numbers of 6 and 8, and they usually expect 6.8折 (zhe) or 8.8折 (zhe), which means 32% or 12% off respectively. Yes, Chinese use an opposite way to work out a discount. 
  4. Payment: If you want to have more Chinese consume at your business, you may consider the China Unionpay, a preferred method of payment for Chinese abroad similar to brands like Visa and Mastercard. You may contact Smartpay for having a terminal that accepts both UnionPay debit cards and UnionPay credit cards. By having China UnionPay as an option, it may save some transaction and exchange fees and give Chinese tourists the confidence of paying in a way they are most familiar with. If a surcharge applies to credit cards, please make sure the Chinese customers are informed in advance. You may also have to think about Alipay or Wechat Pay if you have been asked about quite often by Chinese customers. These two mobile based and QR code driven payment methods are very popular in China.