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South Island operators to take centre stage as China interest snowballs

8 Apr 2019  By Contributor

Cardrona GM Bridget Legnavsky


A trio of South Island snow experiences is set to capitalise on China’s growing interest in winter sports after winning three of the six spots awarded in the latest round of Christchurch Airport’s New Horizons programme.

Mt Hutt Ski Area, Cardrona Alpine Resort and neighbouring Wanaka attraction, Snow Farm, have been selected alongside Alpine Pacific Touring Route, Experience Mid-Canterbury and Destination Marlborough for the coveted programme which will see them get a valuable hand up to attract and do business with Chinese visitors.

Each organisation will receive $16,000, enabling them to create new marketing collateral for the China market, as well as traveling to China with Christchurch Airport team members, to meet with travel buyers over there.

Justin Watson

Christchurch airport’s chief aeronautical and commercial officer, Justin Watson, explained that they will also receive valuable mentoring from the airport team.

“We have been working with the Chinese tourism sector for many years now, so have genuine insight into what appeals to those visitors and how to reach them,” he said

“We also have great relationships with the travel trade in China and will connect our New Horizons participants with buyers who can send visitors in their direction.”

On the snow experiences particularly, he noted the benefits which could flow throughout the mainland following the latest round of New Horizons activity.

He said: “Beijing will host the Winter Olympics in 2022, and that has sparked a surge in winter sport popularity. By having Mt Hutt, Cardrona, and Snow Farm as part of the programme, we will be well positioned to show Chinese visitors just how much the South Island has to offer in this space.

“We are equally delighted our other recipients are well placed to encourage Chinese visitors to explore the attractions the South Island’s regions offer. That leads to a dispersal of visitors which shares the economic benefit to a wider area, and offers our visitors a better experience.”

Cardrona’s general manager, Bridget Legnavsky, said that the resort is excited to be a part of New Horizons and sees it as a great opportunity to get together with other operators to go into China and showcase the South Island as a “joint force”.

Although Cardrona does a lot of business with China already – mainly working with resorts offering staff training, developing park and pipe facilities and partnering with events – Legnavsky said the programme will “enable us to broaden our reach into the visitor market who love visiting Cardrona, seeing and experiencing the snow, enjoying a glass of bubbles in our restaurant and may not ski at all.”

She said: “New Horizons will help more of our team learn about China, particularly about Chinese guests, their culture and the experiences that appeal to them. It will also help us make great connections and, of course, explore opportunities for business.”

“The interest in winter sports in China is growing enormously. Our winter is opposite to theirs so there is a huge opportunity New Zealand to attract their ski fans in their off- season. These are high-value and often repeat visitors,” Legnavsky added.

Past recipient Encounter Kaikoura’s business manager, Lynette Buurman, explained that the programme will literally immerse the new participants into the Chinese market.

“It’ll equip them to make confident business decisions, because of the valuable insight from and introductions by the Christchurch Airport team.  Our Chinese visitor numbers are steadily growing, largely due to the generous assistance the airport gave us, through New Horizons, to grow our business,” she said.

The New Horizons programme is part of the work Christchurch Airport undertakes to champion tourism in the South Island which focuses both on attracting high value Chinese visitors to the South Island and improving the experience they have when they visit, according to  Watson.

Other examples of this work include the annual Kia Ora South trade shows the airport hosts in China, its roll-out of Chinese superapp Alipay to more than 3,300 businesses across New Zealand, and the launch of the ‘South’ store on Alibaba’s travel platform, Fliggy.


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