As the number of tourists visiting New Zealand grows, so does the number of rental cars driven by people who may never have driven on the left before. Tourists might not speak or read English and therefore struggle to understand our road signs which are often different to international signs. More tourists are choosing self-drive holidays rather than coach tours, and are heading to areas like Queenstown where there is stunning natural beauty and plenty to do.
Consequently, there have been some high profile accidents with fatalities such as when a young, inexperienced Chinese driver rented a car and subsequently ploughed into two motorcyclists, killing them both.
Tourism New Zealand and NZTA produced a Chinese language video that is being shown on Air New Zealand flights. Tourism NZ Chief Executive Kevin Bowler said “The experience visitors have in New Zealand is critical to their overall satisfaction and likelihood of recommending New Zealand to others.
“We know that driving conditions in New Zealand are very different to those experienced in China and Hong Kong, and this can come as something of a surprise to some of our visitors.
“It’s important to improve tourists’ awareness of New Zealand driving conditions, but we’re also looking at ways of encouraging visitors to hire the safest rental vehicles they can afford, promoting safe and realistic route choices and travel itineraries, and improving signage and road markings.”
An NZTA leaflet for visitors – ‘What’s Different About Driving in New Zealand’ (with a Chinese translation) – is available from hire car companies, airports and tourism organisations.
Last year, I personally called every single vehicle rental company in New Zealand to make them aware of this problem. This was before the double-fatality. I suggested that an automated email should be sent to any person booking a vehicle which has information about safe driving, including a link to www.drivingtests.co.nz so that international tourists can familiarise themselves with the Road Code before they get here. Many of the smaller operators were very supportive, but the larger ones generally responded apathetically.
I don’t believe for a moment that 100% of international tourists would bother reading the material or doing the free Road Code quizzes on this site, but if 20% of them did, that could make a difference.
There is also a separate privately produced video targeting campervan drivers, plus a Chinese visitor brochure available at immigration counters at Auckland International Airport for all flights arriving from China and Hong Kong.