Aussie visitor numbers booming

Aussies are continuing to flock to Queenstown, the only destination in the country to see real growth in the transtasman market since 2019.

Figures released by Queenstown Airport show in the 12 months to February, 266,000 Aussies arrived here.

That’s a significant jump on the corresponding pre-Covid period, ending January 31, 2020, during which 229,000 Australians flew into Queenstown.

According to data released at last week’s Auckland Airport Tourism Forum in Wellington, before Covid Aussies made up about 40% of all overseas visitors to New Zealand — it’s recovered to 83% of that, but there were 265,000 fewer visitors in the year to February.

A Queenstown Airport spokeswoman tells Scene the strong demand for transtasman travel to the resort’s not surprising, given its year-round appeal for Australians.

She notes, too, the increase in visitor numbers is being achieved with more passengers per aircraft, rather than an equivalent increase in flights.

Destination Queenstown CEO Mat Woods believes a large reason for the bounceback boils down to Virgin, which resumed flights to the resort from Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne in November, 2022.

Pre-Covid, it had about 14% of the transtasman market, but it hasn’t resumed flying into any other main centres.

Woods: "We actually have all four airlines servicing Queenstown Airport, being Qantas, Jetstar, Air New Zealand and Virgin.

"So, if you live in a port, or you’re a Virgin flyer, you’ll use Queenstown as your port of entry. The rest of the country, I think, are envious we have Virgin."

He also points out DQ targets the Aussie market because they’re "high contributing".

"They stay longer, they go further, they forge connections and they give back — and they come back again, as well."

Meantime, passenger numbers through Queenstown Airport in the first four months of this year continued to break records.

Between January and April, a total of 898,519 passengers moved through the airport — that’s up from 835,068 for the first four months of 2023 and 836,785 for the corresponding period in 2019.

While this month has been much quieter — typical for May — visitation’s expected to ramp up again within the next fortnight, coinciding with King’s Birthday Weekend and Luma over that long weekend.

There’ll likely be another influx over the next month ahead of Coronet Peak’s scheduled opening, on June 14, followed by The Remarkables and Cardrona Alpine Resort on June 15.

Woods says while the forward outlook for winter is looking "a bit flat", that doesn’t necessarily mean visitor numbers are dropping off.

"They’re just waiting to see the snow."