Increased direct flights from Australia to Queenstown are hurting rival big brother, Christchurch.
Official stats show Aussie arrivals into Queenstown jumped almost 50 per cent in recent months while numbers flying into South Island gateway, Christchurch International Airport, dropped.
“It’s hard not to draw the conclusion that there is a strong correlation between our growth and their decline,”
Destination Queenstown marketing boss Graham Budd says.
“I’m sure Christchurch Airport has been concerned that more direct flights into Queenstown from Australia during winter will affect their passenger numbers.
“It still is for many people an option to come into Queenstown from Australia via either Christchurch or Auckland, but clearly the customer experience is much better with a direct service.”
According to Statistics New Zealand, Aussie numbers into Queenstown in August show a whopping 45.8 per cent rise to 11, 478 against the same period last year. This is versus a 14.58 per cent drop, to 26,334, for Aussie short-term visitors to Christchurch.
In July, Aussie numbers rocketed 48.06 per cent to 11,544 – those into Christchurch slumped 10.97 per cent, to
Queenstown benefited from airlines increasing trans-Tasman flights this winter, including newcomer Pacific Blue.
In July, there were 49 flights from Sydney to Queenstown, up from 30 the same month last year, 30 from Brisbane, up from 17, and 17 from Melbourne, up from 12.
Last week Queenstown Airport Corporation revealed a 31 per cent increase, to 65,245, in arrival and departure numbers for international flights from July to September.
Planes were 84 per cent full.
Budd expects Australian arrivals to continue increasing this summer.
“If you look at just that recent example of Qantas, where they put on a flight [from Melbourne] to test summer and then extended it due to demand, that’s what we’re seeing from all the airlines over summer.”
Queenstown will also be connected to a fourth Australian destination, the Gold Coast, for the first time when Jetstar starts trans-Tasman services in December from both there and Melbourne.
Next year’s winter schedule already shows an increase from 22 to 28 trans-Tasman flights per week into Queenstown, airport corporation boss Steve Sanderson says.
Christchurch Inter-national Airport chief executive Jim Boult says: “Queenstown numbers are very good and that’s fantastic – that grows tourism into the South Island and that’s the main thing we at Christchurch Airport are concerned about.”
However he cautions against reading too much into “a couple of months in isolation”.
Aussie numbers into Christchurch had significantly increased last year, Boult says, “so perhaps we’re seeing a bit of a return to normal in our winter numbers”.
“But very much our emphasis is on working on long-haul new routes rather than fighting to cut up the cake on existing stuff.”
Queenstown’s success shouldn’t concern Boult too much – he’s also a prominent local developer.