Stars, seats and spring snow in alignment

Photo: ODT files
Photo: ODT files
The stars have aligned for Queenstown skifields boosted by an early spring snow and passengers lapping up cheap airfares after social distancing measures on planes were dropped.

Air New Zealand said it sold 17,000 tickets for Queenstown routes on Monday following the announcement seat restrictions would be removed.

One Queenstown hotel had a 75% increase in bookings.

Air NZ chief executive Greg Foran said of 180,000 extra seats released, more than 110,000 had been booked, and the vast majority were under $50.

"As soon as the Government announced the removal of physical distancing, demand was strong, with 70,000 seats sold in the first six hours," he said.

NZSki chief executive Paul Anderson, who oversees Coronet Peak and Remarkables Ski Area in Queenstown as well as Mt Hutt in Canterbury, said the timing was perfect.

"It sounds like great news and the stars have aligned a little bit."

Coronet Peak had 15cm of fresh snow by yesterday morning and the Remarkables 20cm.

More was expected.

"We know when the snow falls and the photos get out on social media of people on the powder it encourages bookings.

"It’s great for us and the hotels."

Mr Anderson hoped the unusually good spring snow and cheaper flights would result in Queenstown bars and restaurants being full again.

Social distancing measures and venue limits remain in place for this week at least.

Cabinet provisionally agreed areas outside Auckland would move to Alert Level 1 next Monday.

Holiday Inn Express amd Suites general manager Jason Sabin said he and his staff at the two-month-old hotel watched the press conference on Monday, hoping for good news.

"Overnight, our bookings increased 75%, with many coming to stay in September and October, not just during the school holidays."

Novotel manager Jim Moore said the hotel on Marine Parade had already seen a "definite pick-up in bookings", but "there is room for more".

He said inquiries increased after Monday’s announcement and he expected those who had cancelled bookings when New Zealand moved to Alert Level 2 would make use of their credits.

The surge in visitors comes after Queenstown lost out on its bid to be a base for isolating rugby teams when New Zealand failed in a bid to host the Rugby Championship.

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