Airport boss’ blunt message on tourism

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Auckland Airport’s departing chief executive has urged the country’s tourism industry to quit moaning, in a stinging address in Queenstown. 

Simon Moutter, soon to take the helm at Telecom, has told Queenstown business and tourism leaders he questions the industry’s approach after recent challenges including the Global Financial Crisis, natural disasters in Japan and Christchurch and fuel price hikes. 

“The tourism industry is waylaid in shifting the default industry mindset from being in many cases a passive victim of global trends to making the most of new global trends. 

“I’m frankly bored with hearing about people in the industry moan or seek Government-led fixes or outline in great detail the latest blow to their fortunes,” Moutter said in a no holds barred address at Winter Festival’s Gen-i Business Luncheon on last Friday. 

Moutter, whose airport controversially snapped up 24.99 per cent of community-owned Queenstown Airport two years ago, criticised the industry for being fragmented and parochial, and says he hears an awful lot of complaints but not many solutions. 

“Most put it in a way that assumes Government can actually do something about global trends which it can’t. So here’s what I see as the new reality – the global architecture of travel, as it affects us in New Zealand, has well and truly tilted towards Asia.” 

Moutter says there’s no point in waiting for growth in European markets to return. 

“Adapt or die. Succeeding in Asia will pivot on our collective will as an industry to move on from many of yesterday’s tourism and aviation industry dynamics. 

“From an airport perspective, old-fashioned models of airports as passive gateways no longer apply. NZ needs its airports to actively develop markets for their town or region because airlines can’t do it all.” 

Moutter says having a great seasonal destination like Queenstown is just one piece of the puzzle – and the industry still needs to find more ways to attract visitors in the off-season. 

“While we can’t contribute that much to ski tourism, we can make a big difference to delivering high-value tourists to Queenstown throughout the rest of the year.”