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Figures released yesterday by Auckland International Airport, a shareholder in Queenstown Airport, showed there were 23,651 international passenger movements in Queenstown in March compared with 18,764 in March 2013. In the financial year to date, 252,550 passengers passed through Queenstown Airport, up 27.8% on the previous corresponding period (pcp). The rolling 12-month total was 296,650, up 30.6% on the pcp.
Auckland Airport said in a statement the growth continued to be driven by additional capacity on all transtasman airlines servicing Queenstown.
In addition, Queenstown Airport had announced it was expecting its busiest winter season ever, starting on June 15.
There was initial opposition in Queenstown to the share purchase in the airport by Auckland Airport, which now has a 24.9% stake in Queenstown Airport.
Craigs Investment Partners broker Chris Timms said the move by Auckland Airport had proved the doubters wrong.
''This is a fantastic result. You don't hear any moaning now. It just goes to show Auckland's approach works. They build a relationship and work with airlines to gain direct accessibility to New Zealand as a whole.''
Mr Timms said Auckland Airport had developed its sphere of influence, allowing it to help overseas airlines break into the New Zealand market.
The ability in helping smooth the process of being able to land in New Zealand, especially for Asian airlines, was particularly helpful for Queenstown.
''Through its push into Australia, visitors from China can fly through Australia, into Auckland and on to Queenstown. The methodology is working for the airport and, after all, what is good for Auckland Airport is ultimately good for New Zealand.''
Overall, overseas arrivals to New Zealand through Auckland Airport were slightly down in March compared with the pcp, mainly due to the early Easter last year which was at the end of March compared with mid-April this year.
Monthly visitor arrivals from Australia were down 13.5% in March compared with last year. The decrease again related to the later timing of Easter and school holidays. School holidays in some Australian states were timed to coincide with Easter and, as a result, started in April this year, Mr Timms said.
That was also the reason for a 22.1% fall in monthly visitors from the United Kingdom in March.
Visitor arrivals from Germany were up 13.2% in March, the 11th consecutive month German visitors had exceeded the previous month.
Auckland Airport said Germany was closing in on Japan as the fifth largest source of visitors to Auckland with 57,212 visitors in the year ended March versus 59,643 visitors from Japan.
There were also signs of recovery in European travel markets. Visitor arrivals from France were up 39.3% and up against the previous month, for the 12th consecutive month.
Mr Timms said he still liked the company. It had returned capital to shareholders because it had a ''lazy balance sheet'' and was talking about a new runway, opening further space for more airlines.
''Everyone is talking about Apple Inc providing a capital return, but Auckland Airport is doing something similar.
''You don't repay capital if you think you are going to run into financial difficulties in the future,'' he said.