NZ, Taiwan should have direct flights resume, envoy says

BACK TO BUSINESS::The flights were halted in 2008 because of the financial crisis, but tourism between the two has grown due to their visa-waiver program

Staff writer, with CNA

Fri, Mar 29, 2013 - Page 3

New Zealand and Taiwan should resume direct flights to help revive their tourism sectors after the recent increase in the number of Taiwanese visiting New Zealand, an envoy from the South Pacific nation said.

Stephen Payton, director of the New Zealand Commerce and Industry Office in Taipei, said his country recorded an 8 percent year-on-year increase in the number visitors from Taiwan during the Lunar New Year holiday last month.

“We’re pleased with the return to growth in the numbers of Taiwanese going to New Zealand and we are very keen to see more,” he said in a recent interview with the Central News Agency.

The number of Taiwanese visiting New Zealand surged to about 20,000 in 2010 after a visa-waiver program between the two countries took effect in November 2009, the New Zealand representative said.

However, the figures dropped to between 18,000 and 19,000 in 2011 and last year, which was partially due to a magnitude 6.3 earthquake that struck Christchurch in February 2011, Payton said.

Another possible reason for the drop in the number of Taiwanese visitors may have been the increase in hotel rates, as New Zealand was hosting the Rugby World Cup in 2011, he said, saying that Taiwanese do not seem too interested in rugby.

Payton said that the New Zealand-Taiwan visa-waiver program could play a key role in New Zealand’s tourism in the long term, especially since Taiwan’s main carrier, China Airlines, is now flying daily to New Zealand instead of three times a week.

Tourism between the two countries could grow further if the two nation’s resume direct flights, which were halted in 2008 because of the global financial crisis, he said.

To build Taiwan as a more attractive destination for New Zealanders, the government should develop travel packages bundled with scenic spots and promote the beauty of the nation’s mountainous regions, Payton said.

Taiwan could also attract more young people from New Zealand under the working holiday program by promoting its courses teaching Chinese, cycling tours and Aboriginal villages, he said.