A significant milestone achieved for the 2016 year highlights the rapidly changing nature of the Chinese visitor market.
Visa information provided by Immigration New Zealand shows a remarkable transformation in a few short years.
Most of our visitors from China used to visit as part of a group tour, which is typical for an emerging tourism market.
These group tours were of variable quality and were often what was commonly deemed a ‘shopping tour’, with three or four days in New Zealand tacked onto a visit to Australia.
Group tours are still popular and overall numbers are growing, but the quality has generally improved and groups no longer dominate the overall Chinese visitor mix.
As recently as 2012, 71% of China leisure visitors came to New Zealand on an Approved Destination Status (ADS) group visa.
For 2016, the ADS group visa share had fallen to 48%, with 52% of Chinese leisure visitors getting general visas for their travel to New Zealand.
In other words, for the first time Chinese visitors travelling independently exceed those coming to New Zealand in groups.
This is a very welcome development. The independent Chinese traveller is likely to stay longer and visit different areas of New Zealand.
As a result of the rapid change, the overall median length of stay for Chinese international visitors (6.9 days) is now twice what it was in 2012 (3.5 days) and is on a par with other key markets like Australia and Japan.