Resort fears its thunder will be stolen

Paul Abbot. Photo: ODT files
Paul Abbot. Photo: ODT files
Queenstown officials say New Zealand is now in a battle with Australia, and it is looking like this country will lose.

The Government is ending managed isolation and quarantine for returning New Zealanders from Australia on February 27.

It is being replaced by a 10-day self-isolation period, which will drop to seven days once the country enters "phase 2" of the Government’s pandemic plan.

The five-stage reopening, at this stage, spans eight months, the first international visitors, from Australia, expected by July.

They, too, at this stage, will have to self-isolate.

Destination Queenstown chief executive Paul Abbot said the first market to move would be those visiting friends and family, though whether they could be converted to visit Queenstown as part of their trip would be the big question.

He anticipated the resort would not see any significant positive impact on visitor numbers until the self-isolation requirement had been either eliminated or "dramatically" shortened.

When that was coupled with this week’s Australian border announcement — that that country will open its doors to all fully vaccinated travellers with the appropriate visas from February 21 — New Zealand had effectively been positioned as a "difficult" destination, Mr Abbot said.

He believed the Australian announcement would have come as a shock to many, and it meant that country would steal a march on New Zealand in terms of preference for offshore travellers and workers.

Airlines looking to deploy capacity would turn their focus there, while the lucrative meetings and conventions market would have a solid alternative for quarters two and three this year.

"This is all business that we will not have the chance to compete on, I’m afraid."

Further, the Australian Government’s stance, signalling its support for its country’s hard-hit tourism industry, would have a negative effect on our tourism industry through reduced share of long-haul travellers, he said.

There would also be an offshore perspective that New Zealand’s position on overseas visitors had changed for the worse.

Queenstown Airport chief executive Glen Sowry said airlines planned long-haul flight schedules from the northern hemisphere to New Zealand twice a year.

They would be looking to lock in October 2022 to March 2023 flights at the end of this month.

"If [airlines] determine that New Zealand is not a viable destination, because they don’t have confidence, and the ability to operate, and [believe] the rules might change, or that their customers will need to self-isolate — which isn’t a viable situation — they will redeploy those aircraft on to other routes elsewhere in the world," Mr Sowry said.

However, the schedule for Queenstown had more flexibility given international flights into the resort come from Australia’s east coast, he said.