Chinese investment in New Zealand’s tourism sector is set to grow as the number of visitors from China continues to soar, New Zealand’s economic development minister Steven Joyce has said.
Joyce said in an exclusive interview that he was “picking up quite a bit of interest in China in investing in tourism infrastructure in New Zealand.”
Tourism is likely to be New Zealand’s big opportunity in the China market in the near future.
Joyce was speaking Saturday shortly after opening the new Len Lye Center in the North Island city of New Plymouth, which Arts, Culture and Heritage minister Maggie Barry described during the ceremony as “New Zealand’s first example of destination architecture connected with the arts.”
Barry said in her speech that the center, New Zealand’s first museum dedicated to a single artist, would give the city an internationally recognized iconic structure.
Joyce said the center is an example of a development that would help bring tourists to the regions outside New Zealand’s more established visitor destinations and larger cities.
However, he told Xinhua that New Zealand’s regions would need to step up to the challenge of being able to cater to growing numbers of visitors, particularly from China.
“The bigger challenge probably for those involved in the tourism industry, whether they be in China and/or the New Zealand end, is ensuring that we’ve got enough infrastructure to cope with the growth,” he said.
“I think that probably includes particular things like regional hotels and regional attractions alongside the beauty of New Zealand.”
Investment from China would be welcome, said Joyce.
“We’re seeing quite a bit, but we’ll probably see more,” he said.
Joyce said tourism is one of the sectors that is helping to offset the economic impact of falling global dairy prices and slowing demand in China, New Zealand’s biggest foreign buyer of dairy products.
The dairy slump is having a “short to medium-term effect” on dairy-based regions, but he expected prices to come back positively.
“The fundamentals that drive dairy consumption are actually improving not just in China, but around the developing world, right across Southeast Asia, South America and so on so I think the longer term story is a good story,” said Joyce.
The New Zealand economy is already adapting with the exchange rate 25% lower than last year.
“That’s certainly helping other exporters who haven’t had a price drop, so tourism, education, kiwifruit, all the foods, ICT, hi-tech — they’re all seeing effective increases in their incomes in New Zealand dollar terms, so that’s helping to offset what’s been going on in dairy,” said Joyce.
He cited statistics out Friday, showing New Zealand’s goods exports to China last month were the first to see a year-on-year rise in 10 months, as evidence of economic resilience.
The figures from the government’s Statistics New Zealand agency showed the rise in exports to China is over a range of commodities including logs, meat and fruit.
“Those were interesting numbers actually. It’s only one month and you’ve got to be careful and not get carried away on one month, but I think that hopefully it will remind people that actually there’s much more to the New Zealand economy than dairy,” said Joyce.
“Dairy’s very important, but there’s a bunch of other sectors that are as important individually and collectively, so I think most people looked at the trade figures yesterday — not even so much the China part, but just at them generally — and said they’re a bit more resilient than what we expected.”