US-Chch direct flight expected to boost Dunedin tourism

United Airlines Dreamliner flight UA730 arrives in Christchurch after its 11,100km flight. PHOTO:...
United Airlines Dreamliner flight UA730 arrives in Christchurch after its 11,100km flight. PHOTO: THE NEW ZEALAND HERALD
The first direct international flight between the United States and the South Island has been touted as "huge news" and a boost to Dunedin tourism.

History was made yesterday when United Airlines Dreamliner 787-900 touched down at Christchurch Airport from San Francisco just after 10am, completing its more than 11,000km journey.

The new service, delivered in partnership with Air New Zealand, is the first time the South Island has had a direct scheduled service from San Francisco.

Dunedin city councillor Sophie Barker said the flight was "huge news for the South Island".

It was good to see evidence of the US market returning, who generally spent longer holidays in New Zealand and were one of our highest spenders, she said.

She hoped this was a sign that international travel could soon return to Dunedin.

"We need those international visitors to come in.

"Dunedin is a great destination that has a lot of attractions for those international visitors, so hopefully we will get that airport back open to international flights."

Cr Barker said tourism would naturally trickle down to Dunedin as the American market viewed New Zealand as a touring destination, with Dunedin sitting quite high on their bucket list due to attractions such as the albatrosses and penguins.

Enterprise Dunedin director John Christie said international flights to Christchurch provided benefits to the whole South Island.

"If an international flight lands in Christchurch, then the whole South Island can benefit," Mr Christie said.

"What tends to happen is those visitors do self-drive around the South Island or they’re part of package tours and that’s where Dunedin would pick up its share of those bed nights, which is something we are always working towards.

"The more international flights we can get into Christchurch, the better the South Island fares in terms of that tourism spend."

Dunedin Airport business development general manager Megan Crawford said the United Airlines service was great for the South Island, connecting residents directly with the US.

The airport was exploring opportunities with new and existing partners to connect the lower South Island with Australia, she said.

"Strategically this is a priority for Dunedin Airport. However, the development of new routes does take time."

— additional reporting RNZ , PIJF cadet reporter