Two Chinese companies Friday signalled their support for the New Zealand tourism sector with agreements made through Christchurch Airport.
China Southern Airlines has joined the Christchurch-based University of Canterbury (UC) in a new partnership which will benefit one of the South Island's most popular scenic attractions.
The airline signed an agreement to become as an official partner of the iconic University of Canterbury Mount John Observatory, New Zealand's pre-eminent optical research observatory, which sits at the heart of the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve.
The partnership also supported tourism in Tekapo, an alpine lakeside resort, with 10 percent of the agreement's funding provided to the Mackenzie District Council for tourism infrastructure in Tekapo.
"China Southern Airlines is showing a real commitment in this partnership to enhance the visitor experience at Tekapo," Mackenzie District Council Mayor Graham Smith said in a statement.
UC vice-chancellor Rod Carr said he hoped the partnership with China Southern Airlines is a sign of strong ties between the two countries.
"China is the largest and fastest growing international market for student recruitment at UC, so strengthening relationships with key organizations there will support that growth and provide students with employment opportunities," Carr said in the statement.
"This sponsorship is a direct show of support for an area Chinese visitors love to visit." Christchurch Airport chief executive Malcolm Johns said in a statement.
China Southern Airlines Australasian managing director Louis Lu said it was a meaningful partnership that benefited both tourism and science.
"We all share an interest in discovering more about the amazing space that is the sky. China Southern explores it from an aviation perspective, the team at UC and the observatory research its secrets and showcase the amazing stargazing opportunities it offers," Lu said in the statement.
The observatory enables UC staff and students to carry out cutting-edge astronomical research in a number of different areas, including the search for extra-solar planets, the tracking of near-earth objects and the study of pulsating, variable and exploding stars.
Christchurch Airport also announced it had signed a memorandum of understanding with Alibaba, the world's largest retail commerce company, to connect small and regional New Zealand businesses with Chinese visitors.
Chinese travellers would be able to use the Alibaba Group apps to plan their visit, while they toured New Zealand, including shopping and financial transactions, and after they returned to China.
Johns said the strategic partnership was pivotal to unlocking for New Zealand's regions the power of Alibaba's international ambition to have 2 billion consumers in micro trading relationships with tens of millions of businesses around the world by 2026.
"This agreement has the potential to super-charge regional development across New Zealand, by unlocking micro exporting using tourism as the basis for the first meeting between the parties," he said.