Auckland squares up against Sydney in battle for Chinese

By Kevin Rozario |

In the battle for high-spending Chinese passengers, the gloves are off as Auckland Airport – in David and Goliath style – promises to overtake rival Sydney Kingsford Smith as the top gateway for the Chinese holiday market in Australasia.


New Zealand’s Auckland Airport processed 14.4m passengers (excluding transits) in 2013, of which 7.5m were international – whereas Sydney handled more than double that at 37.9m, of which 12.75 were international.


Nevertheless, Auckland has outlined its ambitious Chinese goal because it already has significant Chinese traffic and routings and is currently second in Australasia to Sydney for Chinese holiday visitor arrivals.


Charles Spillane (left), Auckland Airport’s Acting General Manager Aeronautical Commercial, claims: “In 2013, Auckland welcomed 156,064 Chinese holiday arrivals. Only Sydney, which processed 169,298 Chinese holiday visitors over the same period, received more in Australasia.



“When we look at total Chinese arrivals in New Zealand, we can see that 71% of these are holiday visitors, compared to 49% in Australia. This, coupled with the fact that over 90% of Chinese visitors into New Zealand arrive through our airport, places Auckland in a strong position to surpass Sydney.


“Our role as the hub for New Zealand also places us in a unique position to help the country to capitalise on the huge growth prospect that the Chinese holiday market represents.”


Auckland Airport has identified a number of actions to take it to the top spot including the increased promotion of premium holiday activities in Auckland (pictured below) and New Zealand, and harnessing the attractiveness of all of New Zealand as a destination in cooperation with the national tourist board.


According to Spillane, the airport has already implemented programmes to attract more Chinese visitors to New Zealand. One was a digital marketing strategy to increase the number of Chinese purchasing New Zealand holiday experiences. This included a partnership with China’s leading social media website Sina Weibo, and the creation of a number of digital platforms to showcase New Zealand as a premium holiday offering [such as luxury travel website and independent site, both of which are fully translated].




“We have focused on creating strong relationships with Chinese tourism wholesalers, such as Guangdong travel company, GZL International, and have had an emphasis on building relationships with key New Zealand tourism suppliers,” says Spillane. “This has seen over 250 kiwi operators promoted through our digital platforms in China.”


At the airport, there are also programmes in place to ensure Chinese visitors get a good first impression. These included training workshops to help staff deliver better experiences for Chinese visitors, as well as increased Chinese signage and the introduction of Mandarin speaking volunteers at the airport.


“All of this has helped to provide an additional 76,000 seats directly into the fast-growing Chinese market in 2014 when compared to 2013,” says Spillane.


The largest source of this growth has come from China Southern Airlines with an increased capacity of 40%. The airline now has 10 flights per week to Guangzhou and has announced double daily flights during the next peak season. Air New Zealand flies daily to Shanghai and Air New Zealand and Cathay Pacific codeshare double daily to Hong Kong all year round and up to triple daily over the peak season.


“We want to continue to build on this impetus and reach toward our Ambition 2025 aspiration of 893,000 Chinese visitors to New Zealand by 2025,” says Spillane.


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