Tapping into China’s lucrative incentive market pays dividends for New Zealand.
When 6,000 Chinese delegates flew to Queenstown for the Amway China 2018 Leadership Seminar in April this year, it marked the single largest piece of incentive business in New Zealand’s history.
Over the last few years, the Asia ‘mega incentive’ market has been dominated by New Zealand’s neighbour, Australia. Sydney, Melbourne and the Gold Coast have welcomed significant numbers from Nu Skin, Perfect China and Infinitus China, respectively, in the last two years, totalling more than 14,000 delegates and an estimated AU$120 million (US$85.3 million) in spending. Tapping into China’s lucrative incentive market is big business for any destination.
Choosing Queenstown — home to a population of less than 30,000 — as the host destination for a 6,000-strong incentive over more sophisticated and developed cities was unconventional. However, picking a smaller destination gave Amway China the flexibility to be creative and deliver something entirely new for its delegates.
“Amway China chose New Zealand, and Queenstown, because it was excited by the wide variety of things to see and do here and how easy they are to access,” says Lisa Gardiner, international business events manager at Tourism New Zealand. “New Zealand’s style of hospitality — known as manaakitanga — where people arrive as strangers and leave as friends also appealed to Amway, as did our flexible, creative and innovative approach that enabled us to meet its needs during the planning process.”
The client also recognised that choosing Queenstown gave delegates an escape from urban, cosmopolitan settings. From boat trips into Fiordland National Park and bungee jumping off Kawarau Bridge, to wine tastings at Gibbston Valley and visits to an historic gold mining town, Amway China wanted to immerse delegates in an otherworldly environment.
Successfully delivering 6,000 delegates into a region the size of Queenstown was a logistical challenge Amway China had never experienced before. It just wasn’t possible to have one big event.
“An alternative format to get the movement into Queenstown in smaller groups of 500 was recommended and accepted by Amway,” says Kiran Nambiar, business development director at Destination Queenstown.
The delegation was separated into 11 waves, with each arriving at the destination for a five-day programme over the course of six weeks. There are no direct flights from China, so groups flew out of Shanghai and Hong Kong, and transited in Auckland. Air New Zealand even increased its domestic flights between Auckland and Queenstown just for Amway, and offered tailored services, such as cabin greetings, priority check-in and free amenities.
Queenstown and its tourism operators were under pressure to deliver 11 incentives back-to-back, each one requiring the same high levels of service.
“This is a huge change in the way Amway operates, but they had confidence in Queenstown operators that this format would ensure delivery of a superior experience for its delegates,” Nambiar says.
Each group of approximately 560 delegates was spread across three hotels: Hilton Queenstown Resort and Spa, DoubleTree by Hilton Queenstown, and Queenstown Village Apartments.
The first day of the programme was kept free to allow delegates to recuperate after the long flights. They had a choice of activities for days two and three, which included a full-day trip to Milford Sound and the Dart River Wilderness Safari where many of the iconic Lord of the Rings scenes were filmed.
Day four was reserved for business meetings and a gala dinner at Coronet Peak, before the final day saw the group enjoy lunch at the renowned Stratofare Buffet Skyline Queenstown.
Where possible, operators tailored the activities for the Chinese delegation, bringing them to life in a variety of creative ways. For example, on arrival at the Dart River Wilderness Safari, groups were given their own Lord of the Rings cloaks. As they explored the forest, actors dressed as characters from the film were waiting to surprise them.
Key to making these experiences memorable for Amway China’s delegates was ensuring that operators and venues were ‘China ready’, which, Nambiar explains, wasn’t an issue as the destination was prepared well in advance.
“China is the largest long-haul market for New Zealand and this reflects in the market mix for most operators in Queenstown, where China is a big, or growing, part of their business. Over the years, they have adapted their products to meet the needs of the China market, so all operators were well prepared for the Amway movement.”
Amway China’s business owners rated the leadership seminar programme as one of the best ever in the company’s history, with an overall satisfaction rating of 96 per cent. Gardiner believes that having a globally recognised brand rate Queenstown so highly is a huge accolade to the destination and she hopes it will lead to more business from the region.
“The success of Amway China’s incentive programme has put New Zealand in an excellent position to host other large incentive trips, especially outside the traditional peak summer season. We have already seen an increase in interest in New Zealand as a host destination, especially in China, where we secured double the amount of incentive business in the year ending June 2018 than the previous year.”