Extra flights welcomed

Queenstown civic, tourism and aviation chiefs are welcoming extra direct transtasman flights announced by Jetstar this week to the growing portfolio of flights to the resort by all airlines.

The announcement dovetailed with a major marketing push by Destination Queenstown in three major Australian cities this week.

Jetstar announced on Wednesday it would increase services between Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch and boost flights from Australia to Queenstown when it introduces a ninth aircraft to its New Zealand fleet in mid-November.

At the same time, the low-fare Qantas subsidiary, which has its headquarters in Melbourne, said it would "suspend" its almost daily Queenstown-Christchurch service, because of "patchy" passenger numbers and changing travel patterns.

Queenstown Lakes Mayor Vanessa van Uden said yesterday the expansion plan had to be good for inbound tourism as "37,000 extra seats into Queenstown annually will have a really positive impact on business in our district".

"We have to see this kind of investment in our area as an opportunity to ensure its success.

"In terms of the Christchurch service, I understand this was not unexpected. On the flip side, we should not lose sight of a healthy 15% increase in the domestic Jetstar market to Queenstown out of Auckland and Wellington."

Destination Queenstown chief executive Graham Budd said yesterday it was "very pleasing" to see the additional Jetstar flights from Sydney and Melbourne.

It was a reflection of the continuing appeal and growth being seen in Australia for Queenstown and the demand for direct routes to the resort, which was partly responsible for the suspension of Christchurch-Queenstown services, he said.

"These are nice additional services from Jetstar, but we also have Air New Zealand and Qantas flying in and those services have all been growing year on year, and particularly pleasing is, not only are we getting increases in direct services in winter, but they are now extending into summer months.

"It means our year-round appeal is being better understood in Australia, hence the demand."

Mr Budd said the announcement coincided with the Destination Queenstown road show featuring DQ staff and 30 members hosting travel trade and conference and incentive buyers in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane this week.

"In Sydney on Monday and Tuesday, we hosted a couple of hundred buyers at functions we held to promote Queenstown and [on Wednesday night] the team was in Melbourne doing exactly the same, so it's beautifully coincidental that we happen to be there promoting Queenstown in those very markets."

Queenstown Airport chief executive Scott Paterson said he welcomed Jetstar's additional services, which would increase its international services into the Wakatipu to seven a week from November 15.

The Jetstar international weekly schedule would be four Queenstown-Melbourne direct services and three Queenstown-Sydney direct services, which would help increase tourism for the region, he said.

"Commencing the services as summer approaches also confirms that Queenstown is increasingly viewed as a year-round destination," Mr Paterson said.

Jetstar was good at quickly responding to demand in the market, he said.

The airline's announcement to suspend its Queenstown-Christchurch service was "disappointing, but not unexpected".

"We closely watch airline performance and we have been concerned about the Queenstown-Christchurch service for a while, so we're not surprised that Jetstar have decided to focus on other routes."

Mr Paterson said Jetstar's domestic nonstop services of Queenstown-Wellington, Queenstown-Auckland still represented a 15% increase in domestic passengers compared with the correponding period the previous year.

Tourism Industry Association (TIA) chief executive Martin Snedden said New Zealanders travelling within their own country contributed $36 million in economic activity every day.

"Offering them more good-value options for flights between the main centres will definitely help boost that figure," Mr Snedden said.

He also welcomed Jetstar's increased flights between Australia and Queenstown, saying it would help increase New Zealand's largest source of international visitors.

Almost 1.2 million Australians visit New Zealand a year, spending almost $4.5 million a day.

"The flow-on effects of the increased Jetstar services will benefit TIA members around the country, including attractions, activities, accommodation and transport providers," Mr Snedden said.



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