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Business people heading to Shanghai World Expo are hoping to showcase their products, build new relationships and patch old ones. In the process, Kiwis hope to show the world how to throw a good party at the New Zealand pavilion.

Playing bridesmaid to snorting camels in Pushkar, and Virgin Galactic space flights, this year’s Shanghai World Expo ranks number 10 among Lonely Planet’s top 10 things to do in 2010.  New Zealand exporters looking for a leg-up in China are bypassing the camels and heading directly to Shanghai.

The New Zealand Government and five corporate sponsors are footing the bill of more than $32 million for New Zealand’s pavilion and its VIP hosting including Ruth Pretty catering, New Zealand wines, a mezzanine venue and the main open-to-the public New Zealand experience and rooftop garden, expected to attract seven million visitors. Exporters only need to cover guests’ entry into Expo (about $40 a head).

New Zealand’s Shanghai pilgrimage will take many forms: Seresin Estate’s winemaker Clive Dougall hosting a one-off, wine-matched, dinner for 40 guests; Export New Zealand Bay of Plenty’s large contingent of regional exporters; and Tauranga’s mayor and local MPs booking the VIP facilities for six days. Most are using the Expo as part of a wider China market visit.

PRODUCT LAUNCHES, RELATIONSHIP BUILDING

Angela Wallace, executive officer at Export New Zealand Bay of Plenty, is enthusiastic about hosting opportunities at the pavilion for her region’s exporters. Some members of the group are also visiting Tauranga’s sister city Yantai, organised by Tauranga City Council.

“Because a lot of the companies that are going have established relationships in China they are making the most of bringing in their people and strengthening relationships and doing product launches, etc,” says Wallace.

Bay of Plenty-based software company Pingar LP is launching its Chinese language product with a presentation for 110 guests followed by meetings with potential customers.  Its English language software was recently launched in Las Vegas and the House of Commons in London, and Hong Kong.  Co-founder and CEO Peter Wren-Hilton views the Expo as its Chinese beach head.

“The presence of Stuart Crosby, the mayor, adds weight to the delegation.  Mayors in China are treated far more highly than they are in New Zealand,” says Wren-Hilton.

The Tauranga and Rotorua MPs are also expected, which means the Chinese government will probably provide similar representation.  With government and universities being Pingar’s target markets, this is good news for Wren-Hilton, who is also joining the delegation to Yantai, which will include a university visit.

Whatever exporters’ reasons for attending, two important themes are common – it’s all about relationships and careful planning is needed to get key contacts to the New Zealand pavilion.

Robin Piggott is sales manager at Dominion Salt, which supplies mostly pharmaceutical-grade sodium chloride for intravenous and dialysis solutions.  Part of the Bay of Plenty contingent to both Shanghai and Yantai, he will visit other customers independently.

He’s also hoping to entice Korean customers. “I have a very good relationship with the Koreans and if I can encourage them to come to Shanghai just to go to the World Expo, by being there I think it will help cement that relationship,” says Piggot.

BEING PREPARED

He also believes in being prepared:  “It costs a lot of money to travel anywhere so you really have to do a lot of work before you go.  You have to put everything in place because it’s too late once you get there.  I’ve been travelling for export for 18 or 19 years — I know from experience.”

New Zealand Trade & Enterprise (NZTE) has formed a business leveraging team to help businesses and regional groups take advantage of trade opportunities.  New Zealand team lead Jane Cunliffe says the pavilion showcases Kiwi high-tech, innovative and creative values and the VIP facility adds the touch and feel of wine and food and discussion.  The team is also responsible for organising ministerial trade missions and venue bookings.

As a foundation partner (sponsor) of the New Zealand pavilion, ZESPRI International is happy to align its kiwifruit brand with the Expo in a market providing annual sales of $50 million, 4% of total sales.  Sales are projected to rise to $65 million within a few years.  The 10-year target is 20% of annual sales.

Communications manager Melanie Palmer says Chinese consumers are historically good fruit eaters and with increasing income, brand awareness and quality consciousness, the future looks good.

While Palmer won’t reveal how much ZESPRI is spending on the Shanghai deal, she says it is “not an insignificant amount”.  As ZESPRI’s global advertising and promotion spend last year was $70 million it is likely the amount is a teeny drop in a big ocean. With seven million potential consumers predicted to visit the pavilion, a kiwifruit vine on the rooftop garden, bragging rights, VIP hosting opportunities, a senior ZESPRI presence at ministerial delegations and ZESPRI retail merchandise, those bucks should deliver plenty of bang.

“The investment is not as important as the value returned on that investment for us and we are certainly planning to make the most of that,” Palmer says.

LOW REGISTRATION

Not all potential Kiwi visitors have decided on the pilgrimage yet. NZTE is expecting more than 200 companies to host guests although only 23 are registered.  H Dawson Sons and Co (Wool) NZ entertained customers at the 2005 World Expo in Aichi, Japan but remains undecided about Shanghai.

Managing director Keith Cowan says: “We are in a different scenario in China in that we have our own team on the ground there.  We didn’t have in Japan.  We are actually trying to assess at the moment whether we are going to be able to get to the right people and use it in the right way.”

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