High hopes for new Christchurch to Perth link

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Christchurch Airport’s big cheese says Queenstown stands to reap major benefit from a new direct air link with Australia’s wealthiest visitor market.

Queenstown-based Christchurch Airport chief executive Jim Boult, at last week’s launch of the first flights between Christchurch and Perth for about 20 years, says: “Western Australians have the highest income per capita of any state in Australia, plus they have the highest propensity for international travel.

“It’s very hot in the summertime over there so coming to a place like the South Island, where we have a more moderate climate, might be really attractive.

“Longer term, when this service becomes year round, which I’m sure it will, skiing will be a great driver for Western Australian traffic as well.”

As it stands, the new return connection is on trial as a twice-a-week Air New Zealand service till late April.

Queenstown will see a lot more Western Australian visitors, Boult predicts, but also more from markets like South Africa: “Taking three hours out of the trip between South African and Christchurch is a lot of time.”

John Robson, boss of Queenstown/Fiordland operator Southern Discoveries, sees the new link as very positive for local tourism.

Robson, who took the inaugural flight to Perth, says his company and others are guilty of concentrating on emerging Asian markets at the expense of Australia, which provides almost half our overseas visitors.

“Any other direct [Australian] link is going to beneficial – the thing that’s really important about Australians for us in Queenstown is that they invariably return, unlike a lot of other countries where they strike us off their bucket list.

“From my observations in the last two years, Australia now rates us – for years we were the shitty little second cousin, and now they really do take us seriously and are unfailingly blown away by the scenery.”

Local-based Skyline Enterprises sales and marketing boss Neil Kilby says the 80,000 Western Australians who already visit NZ each year, mainly via Air NZ’s daily Auckland link, already exceed German arrivals.

Kilby believes Western Australians will find the South Island and Queenstown in particular a natural fit.

Air NZ boss Christopher Luxon last month told a local Chamber of Commerce luncheon demand for the new service made it likely it would be extended all year round.

• Philip Chandler chuffed it up in Perth courtesy of Air NZ and Tourism Western Australia