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Face time with visiting China Minister a big boost

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Getting to speak with China’s Minister of Culture and Tourism Luo Shugang to explain the massive project Hastings has organised for the China New Zealand Year of Tourism was invaluable, says project director Kevin Watkins.

At the official opening of the China New Zealand Year of Tourism at Te Papa in Wellington on Saturday, Mr Luo met Hastings District councillor Kevin Watkins.

“Having that time with the Minister, who was over here from Beijing for the launch of the China and New Zealand’s shared Year of Tourism, gave us the opportunity to explain what we were doing. He was impressed that Hastings was reaching out to every region in China.”

The Amazing China Hastings Year of Tourism, endorsed by Tourism New Zealand and the Ministry of Business and Innovation (MBIE), will see every one of China’s 30-plus regions invited to send Hastings a small ‘treasure chest’ containing something that uniquely represents their region. In return, Hastings District Council will send a gift representing Hastings.

The exchange of gifts has been designed to become a competition later in the year, that will see Hastings secondary students asked to use their research skills to match the gifts with their regions of origin in China.

“Chinese media based both in New Zealand and China are already showing a great deal of interest. We don’t believe anything like this has been done before,” said Mr Watkins.

An Auckland-based Chinese media company is recording events and milestones as they occur, with a view to making a video on the project.

The audience with Mr Luo came just a few weeks after the project was highlighted at the annual Sister Cities Conference in Palmerston North.

A speaker at that conference suggested the audience take particular note of the Hastings project, describing it as unique and an example of what local government can do with the opportunities that the China New Zealand Year of Tourism provides.

The China-New Zealand Year of Tourism 2019 protocol was signed by China’s Premier Li Keqiang’s and then-New Zealand prime minister Bill English in 2017, during a visit to New Zealand by Premier Li. The vision for the national initiative was to provide opportunities for China and New Zealand to strengthen economic ties through tourism.

Mr Watkins has long experience of running competitions in Hastings that encourage secondary school students to build their knowledge and understanding of China. “Today’s students will undoubtedly interact more with China – one of the world’s largest and most populous countries – in a way that previous generations have not needed to.

“Building relationships and cultural understanding at this age and stage means they will have a good basis on which to interact.”

On the official website (www.cnzyot.govt.nz) New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Adern says the China-New Zealand Year of Tourism will “strengthen the already deep ties” between the two countries.

For New Zealand, “it is an opportunity to showcase to China what makes Aotearoa a world-class destination: Stunning national landscapes, unique experiences and products, and maanakitanga, our warm and friendly Kiwi welcome”, Ms Adern said.

Hastings already has strong economic ties with China, through its sister-city relationship with Guilin, horticulture exports and international education, as well as many friendly-city relationships, and this is an opportunity to build on that, said Mr Watkins.

Notification of the arrival of the treasure chests and other updates will be made public on the Hastings District Council’s Facebook page and through press releases, Mr Watkins said.

12 August 2019

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