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Rt Hon John Key
Prime Minister
Minister of Tourism

Reflections on China

China is a great country to visit.  The sheer magnitude of the cities and their infrastructure is remarkable, and it’s steeped in a rich history and cultural diversity that is uniquely Chinese.

It’s a great place for New Zealanders to spend time, and I believe many more Kiwis will travel there as we continue to increase our air connections between New Zealand and China.

New Zealand and China have a very strong relationship.  This is underpinned by the strong ties between our people.  Many China-born people now call New Zealand home, and they contribute to our rich diversity.  They also have a very strong part to play in sharing the very best parts of Chinese culture with their Kiwi friends and neighbours.

I first visited China in 1995, and I’ll never forget traveling through Beijing.  We visited all the major sightseeing destinations, along with thousands of other people who were marvelling at the same thing.  We were overwhelmed by the grandeur of Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, and the Great Wall.

The Great Wall is something to behold.  It’s an incredible piece of infrastructure that is built on some of the most difficult terrain.  The size, and length, of the original series of walls makes this a very worthy wonder of the world.  Since my first visit to the Great Wall, I’ve been back a few times, including when I took my family to see this sight.  No matter how many times I go back, I’ll never forget seeing the towers and the wall itself snaking out of the mist for the first time.

China has some of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world too.  Beijing is a bustling metropolis which has so much to offer visitors.  Shanghai, on the banks of the Yangtze river, is beautiful with its bund and tree lined streets.  It’s a modern city ready to take on the likes of Paris or New York.  And traditional Guangzhou, which I visited recently, is set to play an important part in New Zealand’s economic future.

Today’s China is very different from when I first visited.  The main cities are modern, diverse centres with so much to offer visitors – especially New Zealanders.  Everything in China is done on such an enormous scale, and the very fabric of Chinese society is so incredibly different to New Zealand – making this an extremely worthwhile country to visit.

New Zealand’s relationship with China has gone from strength to strength in the past few years.  China is now New Zealand’s second-largest and fastest growing major trading and tourism partner. It is also our largest education market for foreign students.  And it is fast becoming a must-see on the lists of many New Zealanders.

While there is no place quite like home, China is a great country, which I always enjoy visiting.

Christopher Luxon
Prime Minister
CEO, Air New Zealand

A word from the Prime Minister

I have been lucky enough to visit China a number of times, for both business and leisure, first during my time at Unilever and most recently in my role as Chief Executive Officer of Air New Zealand.

I’ve witnessed a tremendous change in the time since my first visit in the late 1990s, not least of which has been how strong the relationship between New Zealand and China has become and how highly regarded the New Zealand brand is in China.

New Zealand was one of the first destinations granted Approved Destination Status by China in 1999. Since then, tourism from China has grown almost tenfold from 23,000 to 209,000 visitors last year. Likewise, more than 65,000 New Zealanders visited China last year. That’s incredible progress in a relatively short amount of time.

In the seven years since Air New Zealand became the first carrier to operate direct services between New Zealand and Mainland China we have worked hard to develop this important market and we remain very committed to further growing our business to and from China with ambitious plans for the future.

We know that independent travellers from China are looking for ‘real’ up close and personal experiences with our people, our culture and our lifestyle. Air New Zealand is perfectly positioned to provide this by doing what we do best – through our brand values of being ourselves, sharing our New Zealand and welcoming as a friend. We do this in China through our bilingual cabin crew and what we call “Chiwi” culture – offering our customers a hybrid of the very best of both New Zealand and China.

It’s an exciting time to be alive and part of a generation witnessing this incredible shift of economic power and popular culture from the Atlantic to the Pacific Rim. China with all its energy, dynamism, growth, and opportunities is the big driver of this change.

While many of my Chinese travels have been as a business visitor, I have also have had the pleasure of visiting as a tourist and have experienced the warmth and hospitality of Chinese people and culture. The history and grandeur of destinations like the Great Wall and the Forbidden City in Beijing, the culinary treats of Shanghai, and the terracotta soldiers of Xian are something every New Zealander should experience.

Last October, my wife and I took our children and our parents on their first visit to China. It was a wonderful 10 days to give them an experience and taste of China. In fact on the flight home, after a visit that opened their eyes to the possibilities of China, both my children decided that they would like to start learning Mandarin which they are now doing. I’m sure they will in their lifetimes make many more trips to engage and experience China and all it has to offer economically, culturally and socially.

I also look forward to many future visits to China and my hope is that many other New Zealanders will take up the opportunity to do the same and enjoy all the fantastic experiences China has to offer.