No market is more central to New Zealand’s tourism industry than China. Second in volume to only Australians, Chinese visitors have increased 18 percent year-on-year since 2012 with the $960 million spent by Mainland tourists making them the most valuable group.

Given China’s idiosyncratic digital landscape, strategic social media engagement is key. Accordingly, Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED) recently created a WeChat Mini Program bringing an altogether new type of city guide to Chinese travelers.

The ATEED app allows local Chinese-speaking residents in Auckland to share local knowledge and experiences with potential visitors in China — and in real time, a world-first for a DMO Mini Program. Beyond communicating, users can also make payments, order food, and book hotels and flights.

According to ATEED General Manager Destination, Steve Armitage, as the number of Chinese free independent travelers (FIT) visiting Auckland has grown, the expectations and information sources of this vast travel group have changed.

“Travelers nowadays want recommendations of what to do and where to go at their fingertips and this Mini Program allows for that interaction between visitors and locals,” Armitage explained.

“With our Auckland WeChat platform, people will be able to ask a question and get an immediate response from a local or see images of real people enjoying different experiences in Auckland, as opposed to marketing campaign material.”

New Zealand WeChat Mini Program

Auckland’s WeChat account keeps Chinese visitors in the loop. Image: WeChat

WeChat’s Head of Global Marketing Fengming Ma is equally enthusiastic about the dynamism of ATEED’s newest initiative. “We are excited to support ATEED leading the way in providing cutting-edge, global tourism solutions for the modern WeChat travelers. The Auckland WeChat Mini Program offers travelers a smart and effective way to engage with an online community – to share and connect with relevant, up-to-date destination content in Auckland.”

Ultimately, ATEED’s hope is that digital engagement on WeChat will result in offline relationships, ones that ensure Chinese visitors enjoy personalized and memorable experiences in Auckland. In all likelihood, it’ll bring additional tourist revenue in as well.