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Queenstown, not Dunedin, is Air New Zealand's gateway to Otago for tourists, its deputy chief executive, Norman Thompson, said yesterday.
His comments follow the announcement at the Queenstown Winter Festival Tourism Forum in the resort the airline will increase flights to Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane during the summer in a bid to promote Queenstown as a four-season destination.
A new weekly Brisbane-Queenstown service will be trialled from mid-December until the end of January and a second Sydney-Queenstown flight will operate from mid-October to the end of December, rather than being cut back to one return flight a week.
The Melbourne flight will continue throughout the summer.
The demand for Queenstown in the Australian tourist market was far greater than that for Dunedin, despite attempts to bolster the city's attractiveness as a destination, Mr Thompson said.
"Queenstown is the main gateway to Otago rather than Dunedin . . . for tourism, yes."
The resort was "arguably New Zealand's fastest-growing destination for Australian visitors, as a result of continual increases in direct services across the Tasman", he said.
While the airline would continue to try to drive demand for more "year-round" services to Dunedin, there was not enough demand at present to sustain that.
"We have got to go with the demand."
Air New Zealand would "continue to support Dunedin", he said, acknowledging the work by Tourism Dunedin to promote the city.
"We would be delighted to see that demand back . . . we have tried very hard to stimulate that demand."
Otago Chamber of Commerce chief executive John Christie, of Dunedin, said the announcement needed to be taken from a regional point of view, as Dunedin people could expect to benefit from increased international flights to and from Queenstown.
There was no point comparing the two centres, as each attracted a different market, he said.
Dunedin needed to work on establishing a market which could attract international travellers.
This could include the business market.
Mr Thompson said the additional flights illustrated Air New Zealand's confidence in the Australian market's ability to deliver solid economic returns to Queenstown.
In the meantime, winter season flights between Brisbane and Dunedin and the year-round Dunedin-Sydney flights would continue.
Queenstown would not replace Christchurch as the South Island's overall gateway, despite the increased investment of $300,000 in marketing promoting Queenstown in Australia.
The cost is shared by the airline and Destination Queenstown.
Queenstown Airport did not have the capability to accommodate wide-body aircraft.