No effect on private jet landings seen so far

Covid-19 is having less of an impact on the travelling habits of the super-wealthy, if the number of private jets flying into Queenstown Airport is any indication.

The airport’s corporate jet terminal facility handles about 250 landings a year, and its owner says, if anything, business has picked up since the emergence of the virus.

Queenstown Corporate Jet Services chief executive Peter Van Dyk said it had experienced a "small upswing" in arrivals in recent weeks, despite the restriction on travellers from mainland China imposed last month.

"Our Asian business dried up anyway, when the Hong Kong riots started last year, and it hadn’t really picked up since."

He attributed the resilience of private jet activity at its facilities at Queenstown, Christchurch and Wellington airports to New Zealand’s reputation as a safe haven.

Ann Lockhart
Ann Lockhart

For high-net-worth individuals and families, it made sense to use a private jet rather than commercial services during a global health scare, Mr Van Dyk said.

However, the outlook was changing day by day, and announcements such as that by United States President Donald Trump on Thursday, banning travel between Europe and the US, and further restrictions foreshadowed by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern yesterday, would inevitably have an effect.

Fortunately, the terminal was going into a quieter period, anyway.

"We’ve had our busy summer season ... every year we quieten down from April through to August or September."

Destination Queenstown interim chief executive Ann Lockhart said the effect of the virus on the resort’s tourism sector overall remained hard to ascertain.

As of February 23, international visitor numbers across the country were down 5.4% from the corresponding time last year.

"What the value of that is, is too early to ascertain, but certainly there’s been a drop in the Chinese market, there’s no doubt about that," Mrs Lockhart said.

Numbers from other sources were holding up in the resort, including domestic visitors and those from Australia and Southeast Asian countries.

"Fortunately, we have not had an [Covid-19] outbreak at this stage at a local level."

The regional tourism organisation had planned national and international campaigns to help mitigate the effect of the virus.

That included a relaunching of its brand to "Home of Adventure", a push aimed at taking the resort back to its roots as an adventure tourism hub.

It is also using $250,000 from the Government’s tourism relief fund for a campaign aimed at domestic travellers.

Marketing and communications director Sarah O’Donnell said it would spend the money on a autumn campaign in collaboration with its Wanaka and Fiordland counterparts.

Running from March 23 until the end of April, with a travel period up to the end of June, the campaign invites local tourism operators to offer visitors special deals.

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