And the Cook Islands Tourism Corporation is anticipating more visitors from their new market later in the year.
Corporation chief executive officer Halatoa Fua said the organisation established a representation office in China in 2013 and was running awareness and trade partnership programmes to attract more Chinese visitors into the country.
In 2013, a total of 1025 visitors from China visited the Cook Islands, increasing to 1267 last year.
So far this year, the corporation has recorded the same number of Chinese visitors as last year, with the peak season yet to go, Fua said.
“Our highest growth percentage year to date (July 14 – April 15) has been from China, with a 68 per cent increase in visitor arrivals.
“They have had the highest growth percentage year to date for our calendar year (January-April, 2015) as well.”
Although visitor arrivals from China were growing progressively, the market was a complex one to deal with, Fua said.
Challenges that had to be dealt with included language, geographical targeting, mobile roaming and Internet access, trade partner programmes, effective awareness/advertising campaigns and issues such as transit/visa processes and air ticket pricing when travelling via New Zealand.
The corporation leveraged the Air New Zealand safety video launch in China to launch the first Cook Islands Mini-Roadshow series targeting key cities and agencies. This had helped overcome some of the challenges, Fua said.
“Our job is to make it seamless and easy from awareness through to the purchase stage of the marketing funnel. Realistically, this will take time, but it is looking good so far.”
Late last month, CAISSA, a subsidiary of Hainaan Airlines completed the first charter flight operation from Beijing to Bora Bora (via Papeete) and Aitutaki.
This Air Tahiti ATR 72-600 aircraft created Cook Islands history by making it the first international direct flight from Tahiti to Aitutaki.
The 28 passengers from China, comprising couples and families celebrating Chinese New Year, stayed for two nights in Aitutaki with Pacific Resort and Aitutaki Lagoon Resort and Spa. The group also experienced the Aitutaki lagoon with The Vaka Cruise before flying back to Tahiti.
“These visitors are high spending individuals, purchasing the two island combination package priced at around NZD$35,000 per person, as an inaugural activity it ticks all the right boxes, and we hope to do more in this space,” said Fua