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Stuff: Christchurch’s relationship with China is growing

With New Zealand Chinese Language Week in full swing, Justin Watson, Chief Aeronautical and Commercial officer for Christchurch Airport, reflects on the airport’s importance as an entry point for Chinese tourists to New Zealand.

Ni hao (nee how). Two easy words to welcome Chinese visitors to our city and two words that will make a warm first impression for those arriving at Christchurch Airport to experience the glorious South Island.

Christchurch Airport is the fastest-growing entry point for Chinese visitors into New Zealand – visitors who are attracted to our big blue skies, clear air, green spaces, mountains, glaciers, beaches and amazing New Zealand hospitality.

Visitors who have heard about our famed southern hospitality and want to experience the Kiwi way of life for themselves. Along with those on holiday, we also welcome many Chinese students each year to study at our education facilities, send thousands of tonnes of our produce each year to be enjoyed in households across China, and have Chinese companies actively investing in our city in areas such as agriculture and construction.

It’s therefore great for them to hear “hello” in their native tongue. A simple “Ni hao” is all it takes. Anything which makes welcoming Chinese visitors to our place easier gets our vote, which is why we are a partner in New Zealand Chinese Language Week, an initiative intended to increase understanding of basic Chinese language within New Zealand.

The initiative is the first of its kind in the world and has the support of a wide group of sponsors and partners, including NZ Māori Tourism, Te Papa, Air New Zealand and Weta Workshops. It takes place in September each year, and is this week this year.

With the direct service between Christchurch and China through China Southern now approaching its third anniversary, our connection to China has never been closer.

The airline has become an ardent advocate and generous supporter of the South Island and many of its attractions. As well as bringing visitors here, it takes South Islanders to the world to visit friends and family and have experiences of other cultures.

This week, our staff across the airport are offering free stickers and small pamphlets to visitors, introducing key Chinese words and phrases, to bring the language to life here and offer you a few words and phrases to help you interact with the Chinese visitors who want to meet you. Think of it in a similar way to our sharing and using key Māori phrases.

New Zealand Chinese Language Week bridges the gap between cultures, connects our Kiwi Chinese ethnic communities and shrinks our world.

We Kiwis are naturally outgoing and welcoming people, who are interested in the world beyond our two islands, so adding a few key Chinese phrases to your vocabulary stretches your boundaries. In fact, that could happen literally, because if you take the “Five Days Five Phrases” challenge, you could win a trip to experience China yourself. Go to  to learn how you could win the chance to test your new language skills in Guangzhou.

Justin Watson

Chief Aeronautical and Commercial officer

Christchurch Airport


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