China and New Zealand’s year of tourism

  • Opinion
  • March 19, 2019
  • Juanita Neville-Te Rito
China and New Zealand’s year of tourism

As I sit in what seems the hottest day I recall, dusting sand off my feet following the Waitangi celebrations and making plans for how to celebrate Chinese New Year (Year of the Pig – I love pigs!), I recall this year holds something significant that could dramatically impact our retailers. And many are unaware. It’s officially 2019 China-New Zealand Year of Tourism.

What the heck does that means?

In layman’s terms, back in 2017 there was an international agreement made by ours and the Chinese government to celebrate a year focused on attracting high-value Chinese visitors to NZ.

According to a release from the Beehive, “China is our second biggest visitor market and tourism is a driver of economic growth and cultural understanding for both our countries. The agreement has potential to add to the $1.7 billion a year Chinese visitors spend in New Zealand.” Well that’s got to be good stuff.

How do you get retail ready to take advantage of this influx of Chinese tourists?

I don’t claim to be an expert but here are some things I’ve picked up along the way.

Gifting is a huge part of the Chinese culture

When travelers are on our shores they will be seeking out specialty local items. It’s super important that make these items prominent and easy to find and highlight the Kiwi uniqueness of them.

If everyone else loves them – they must be good!

The Chinese traveler often seeks out popular and cool stuff that other people are already buying. Highlighting products with information around their popularity or how they rank will certainly help influence the masses.

Made in New Zealand

This is pretty obvious. Ensuring products that are made in New Zealand and cannot be bought in China (or are much more expensive in China) are clear and prominent and in the right quantities is a mandatory. Enough said.


AliPay and WeChat Pay are the Chinese equivalent of Visa and MasterCard here in New Zealand. The difference being that AliPay and WeChat Pay do not use physical plastic cards to make the transaction -  they are digital wallets that are used on a mobile phone. It is worth investigating these payment options as well as accepting China UnionPay to make yourself more accessible for tourists to spend big.

Negotiating and discounts

Chinese shoppers are used to asking for a discount and negotiating. It’s wise therefore to ensure your ticketing and pricing demonstrates any discounts clearly. If there isn’t room to move, make sure you can offer something else. Get creative. Gift with purchase, discounts on additional purchases (buy one get one free, buy two get one free), size upgrades. You are only limited by your imagination.

Sales service

Typically, there are many more staff in stores in China and these shoppers are used to a good level of service. It is imperative that you approach Chinese visitors when they enter your store, greet them and help with what they may be looking for.

New versus display stock

It is not uncommon when purchasing an item for a Chinese tourist to bring the item from the floor to the cash register and then ask for a ‘new one’. They are asking for one that is still in its original packaging. If you do not have the item in original packaging available, explain why and assure them that the one off the floor is in perfect condition. If possible, offer to put it back into its original packaging.

Standard retail practices still apply. Everyone appreciates being welcome in a store so make sure your welcome is warm and attentive. Language barriers can prove an issue so make sure your staff are ready to be friendly and patient. It’s critical to stay friendly and positive while clarifying requirements. Mandarin is the standard Chinese dialect so why not consider some signage which might be useful to your guests? There are many online resources which you can use to help make your guests feel confident and invited into your special retail experience.

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