Negative Kiwi attitudes to Chinese could derail tourism boom

Press Release 19th May 2016

A local sales and customer service training company is warning that Kiwis negative attitudes towards Chinese could derail New Zealand’s tourism boom from that part of the world.

Following hot on the heels of news that 330,000 Chinese visited New Zealand in the last year, comes reports of Kiwis’ growing resentment towards Chinese property buyers and tourist drivers – an antagonist attitude that may translate into bad experiences for visitors.

Director of the Great Scott Training Company, Jacqui Scott, said today that while business owners and managers may be anticipating the rewards that come from Chinese tourism, there needs to be a change in attitude on the frontline where customer service takes place.

“As a customer, even I have encountered antagonism when visiting other parts of New Zealand, so you can imagine what it might be like to be a Chinese visitor when people have a fear that they are buying up all of our houses. We need to be educating the general population with the facts, and training our front line staff to understand how to work with different cultures.”

Ms Scott said one of the biggest obstacles facing the success of businesses was to change staff perceptions by creating a greater sense of empathy through initiatives like cultural awareness training.

“Our belief system creates feelings, which turn into actions that bring about certain results. If we feel that the Chinese are bad for New Zealand, imagine how badly that is going to work out.

“Our expectations of how people should behave are not necessarily shared by other cultures, and expecting them to comply with our way of doing things is not realistic – they are here for a short time, and they are our guests. Don’t forget that they will share their experiences when they get home.”

Ms Scott said Chinese people have a strong sense of protocol. Very often visitors will have an attaché with them to speak on their behalf and to act as a go-between, and things like gift giving are important.

She offers the following advice for companies that regularly deal with Chinese and other overseas visitors:

1. Understand your customer’s culture. Research your overseas customers. What are their expectations when it comes to products and services? What is normal etiquette where they come from? Help your staff to understand what different cultures are about.

2. Think about how you pitch what you are selling.

“As Kiwis, we don’t want an information dump, because we expect people to buy off the basis of relationships, but other cultures may value other things, like speed or formality.”

3. Tell your customer what you are going to do, and explain both the process and the etiquette to them so that they have a better insight into what’s happening.

“We all hate uncertainty, and a hallmark of good customer service is to remove uncertainty,” Ms Scott said.

4. Have conversations with your staff about the importance of how we treat our customers. Make them self-aware of prejudice, even if it’s something on the news or a conversation over a cup of tea.

“Just because we think something is rude, doesn’t mean that it is rude in your customer’s country. Just because somebody thinks or acts differently, doesn’t mean its wrong.

“If we want to benefit both financially and culturally from Chinese tourism, we need to be a lot more understanding, open and empathetic. It’s frustrating when you encounter somebody who doesn’t speak English, but put yourself in their shoes for a moment and imagine how they must feel, especially if you are grumpy.”

Ms Scott said that while some New Zealand businesses are good at helping their staff to serve and sell to different personality types, businesses that extend this to cultural types are seeing more success.

If you’d like a ‘health check’ of attitudes within your organisation or negatives turned into positives to provide everyone with excellence in customer service and sales give us a call 021-555388 or email

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