When Auckland International Airport (AIA) announced in 2010
it planned to buy a stake in Queenstown Airport, there was a
sense of scepticism from some of the local community.
There were fears Auckland would try to dominate the local
company, raising landing charges and scalping any profit made
by the Queenstown company.
There was active opposition to the purchase, which saw AIA
take a 24.9% stake from owner Queenstown District Lakes
Council through the issue of four million new shares for
$27.7 million. The acquisition followed Auckland's initial
step-out purchase of 24.55% stake in North Queensland
airports in January 2010.
Auckland noted its strategic rationale for the Queenstown
alliance was to co-ordinate destination promotion and route
development discussions with airlines, as part of its
strategy to lift international passenger numbers - a key
value driver - above organic growth rates.
The Auckland airport is the primary gateway for international
arrivals and New Zealand remains a great place to visit, with
leisure arrivals making up around 70% of the market.
Queenstown remains New Zealand's primary leisure destination.
Figures out last week showed Queenstown Airport was a star
performer in November, with international passengers up 17.5%
on November last year. The increase was driven by 32
additional international flights. Domestic passenger numbers
were up 18.4%.
The figures show 12,194 international passengers passed
through the airport compared with 10,376 in November last
year. In the financial year then to date, 116,821 passengers
had gone through the airport, up nearly 12% on the previous
There were 100 international aircraft movements in November,
up 28.2% on November last year. In the financial year then to
date, there were 916 international movements, up 12%.
Domestically, there were 77,176 passengers, up 18.4%. There
were 838 domestic aircraft movements in November, up 8.3% on
the previous period, and in the then year to date there were
4903 movements, up 13.3%.
International passenger movements through Auckland
International Airport were up only 1.9% in November but there
was strong growth in November on China, transtasman and
Pacific Island routes. China was up 8.4% on November last
year. Auckland airport's figures showed it was pushing the
increase in Chinese visitors south, to Queenstown.
A 38% rise in the annual number of Chinese touching down in
New Zealand has seen the world's most populous nation topple
the United Kingdom as New Zealand's second-biggest pool for
visitors. There were some 194,752 short-term Chinese arrivals
in the 12 months ended November, up from 141,289 a year
earlier, according to Statistics New Zealand. That trumped
the 191,360 British short-term visitors, which fell an annual
17%. Both sets of figures are, however, dwarfed by the number
of Australian visitors: 1.16 million.
The rising number of Chinese visitors comes as New Zealand
draws closer with the rising economic powerhouse, with local
businesses looking to do more in the world's second-biggest
economy and the Government beginning to reap the benefits
from signing a free-trade agreement with China in 2008.
Dunedin City Council officials last week expressed optimism
about potentially lucrative trade deals with China being just
About 71% of Chinese visitors in the November year came for a
holiday, with 12% visiting friends or family, and 10% coming
to do business. While there are some questions about why
Auckland airport took the stakes in Queenstown, Cairns and
Mackay airports, the strategy has so far proved sound.
Auckland airport has been instrumental in smoothing the way
for global airline companies, particularly those from Asia,
to increase their flights to New Zealand.
Once those leisure visitors arrive in Auckland, they are
encouraged to fly to Queenstown. The parties benefiting from
Auckland's investment strategy include the company itself,
Queenstown Airport, airlines flying in and out of Queenstown
and the resort's tourism operators. In retrospect, the policy
instigated nearly two years ago by Auckland airport seems