by Zhang Xiaoqing
WELLINGTON, March 30 (Xinhua) -- The strong relationship between China and New Zealand is the most important thing, New Zealand's Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis told Xinhua Saturday in an exclusive interview.
The 2019 China-New Zealand Year of Tourism was launched at the country's capital Wellington on Saturday with an aim to strengthen economic and cultural ties between the two countries.
The official ceremony, held at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongawera, was attended by high-level officials and hundreds of representatives from the tourism industry in both countries. Davis read the welcoming message by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at the opening ceremony.
"The relationship between China and New Zealand is the most important thing," Davis said to Xinhua. "I think if we get the relationship right on, we continue on our strong, respectful ways, everything else will fall into place."
"The most important thing for me is that we have a strong relationship, not just with the New Zealand government and the Chinese government, but our people, and we can do that by having more Chinese visitors come to New Zealand, but also more New Zealanders go and visit China."
Last year, around 600,000 visits were exchanged between the two countries. There was an 8.8 percent increase in Chinese holidaymakers visiting New Zealand from 2017 to 2018, and China is New Zealand's second-largest tourism market.
"There are many beautiful places all around New Zealand and part of our desire is to see more people visit the smaller and least known places but is equally beautiful and experience our landscapes in our culture."
When asked about Christchurch's terror attacks on March 15, Davis said, "In Christchurch isn't what New Zealand's about ... We really welcome everybody with open arms. We value diversity, we value our differences, different cultures, different people. That's something we hope never happens again, and it shouldn't define who we are as New Zealanders. We're a welcoming country to people from all nations."
Davis predicted that there will be more New Zealanders visiting China this year. "I've just seen the wonderful landscapes, the culture and the colors of China. It's very exciting and I'm sure New Zealanders would love to go and see and experience more of that."