New Zealand has opened the tourism doors a little wider to Chinese visitors, opening a joint Immigration New Zealand and Tourism New Zealand office in Shanghai as well as further simplifying the visa application process.
Dr Jonathan Coleman, immigration minister and associate tourism minister, says it is the government's response to demand from the world's fastest-growing economy.
China is also one of our fastest-growing tourist markets, worth around $365 million a year.
"The Shanghai office reflects our increasing commitment to meet growth in the China market," Coleman says.
"Chinese tourism in New Zealand is booming with 131,000 visitors in the year to June 2011 – an increase of 25 percent. Business visitors have also increased by 10 percent over the past year.
"Chinese students account for a quarter of the 90,000 international students who study in New Zealand each year.
"It's important that INZ is able to keep up with demand for visa services."
He said INZ had taken steps to remove as much bureaucracy as possible from visa processing in China. The application form has been shortened and uses both Chinese and English.
INZ is also establishing visa application centres in Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou and Hong Kong to speed up the process.
Coleman said INZ was now issuing multiple entry visas for Chinese citizens as standard practice. Previously such visas were the exception rather than the rule. This allows holders to enter New Zealand as many times as they like for a maximum stay of six months in total.
"This will remove a real source of frustration for Chinese who wish to visit New Zealand regularly at short notice."
He said the development highlighted how better collaboration between the tourism and immigration sectors could help boost the tourism industry.
China overtook Japan as our fourth-largest visitor market in 2008.
According to Tourism New Zealand, arrivals have been booming over the past 12 months and China is likely to leapfrog the US as our third largest source of inbound visitors soon.
New air routes linking the Asian region to New Zealand are also opening up opportunities.
In April, China Southern Airlines opened a route linking the southern China city of Guangzhou to Auckland that is expected to boost seat numbers by more than 80,000 in its first year of operation. In January China Airlines opened a three-times-weekly route from Taipei to Auckland via Brisbane, while both Jetstar and AirAsia X have launched services from major Chinese cities to New Zealand.
The Chinese National Tourism Administration is forecasting outbound travel from China to reach 100 million trips by 2015.
Nearly a third of Chinese visitors travel beyond our major visitor centres, although more than 70 percent also visit another country as part of the same trip.
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