Coronavirus wipes $250 million from New Zealand’s tourism revenue
Virus wipes $250m from New Zealand’s tourism revenue
Published: Mar 12, 2020 05:32 PM

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (2nd R, front) attends the 2020 Chinese New Year Festival and Market Day event in Auckland, New Zealand, Jan. 18, 2020. Speaking at the 2020 Chinese New Year Festival and Market Day event in Auckland, Ardern was optimistic about the relationship between New Zealand and China.

The coronavirus outbreak has wiped $250 million from New Zealand's tourism revenue as Chinese tourists freeze their globe sightseeing plans.

The country's trade with China has neared a standstill too since late January, with Kiwi exports of meat to China have dropped about 40 percent year-on-year, Chinese business representatives told the Global Times. 

"New Zealand is feeling the pinch from the coronavirus impact. Although China has significantly eased in daily virus infections, the caseloads are rising in New Zealand, so the economic blow will be bigger and probably last longer," Wang Jiazheng, chief representative of the Guangdong Economic and Trade Representative Office in New Zealand (GETRONZ), told the Global Times on Thursday.

As Chinese tourists spend $5,004 per trip on average, it is estimated that New Zealand's tourism industry could have suffered $250 million in losses in February alone, according to Wang. China is the second-largest source of foreign tourists in New Zealand. 

New Zealand issued a travel ban on Chinese nationals in early February, which some criticized as discriminatory toward Chinese people and said it could further stroke tensions with Beijing. 

According to a memo seen by the Global Times, New Zealand-based Kiwi Wool International, which makes wool products, said that the travel ban on Chinese nationals, plus skyrocketing logistics costs, has led to difficulties in sales and rising stockpiles. 

"[The travel ban] is totally the wrong decision… Our main customers are tourists from China. We could have expected brisk business in the Spring Festival holiday [without the ban]," the company said.  

Flights between China and New Zealand have been slashed by 40 percent since the travel ban began, said Wang. As a result, he said that New Zealand now sees mounting stockpiles of timber, seafood and meat - their main exports to China. Meat exports to China have dropped 40 percent. 

"China also supplies the bulk of industrial products to New Zealand. In the construction industry, some projects have been postponed due to shortages of iron wire and lamps, the majorities of which are imported from China," Wang added. 

China is now New Zealand's biggest trading partner. Currently, exports to China account for 28.5 percent of New Zealand's total exports, while imports represent 20 percent of the country's total.