The Northern Advocate

One year on and we are back in the skies


Ayear ago yesterday was the first day in decades that no internatio­nal passengers arrived in New Zealand. The only planned internatio­nal flight, from Tonga to Auckland, was cancelled. Auckland Internatio­nal Airport was an echo chamber — an eerie casualty of Covid-19.

Tourism Industry Aotearoa chief executive Chris Roberts said at the time it was a symbolic day. “We’ve talked about internatio­nal visitation falling to zero. Well, now it has precisely done that,” Roberts said. “Tourism is going to be the last industry to recover from this crisis, and we know that recovery is a threeto five-year recovery horizon. We’ve clearly hit the bottom today so the only way is up.”

Passengers did arrive again the following day, and there has been a steady stream at MIQs ever since.

This week, the transtasma­n bubble opened and 36 flights between New Zealand and Australia in the first week of April are expected to rise to 400 quarantine-free flights a week by the end of the month.

The opening of the sky-bridge brought an immediate response from the markets, with Auckland Internatio­nal Airport shares climbing 4.74 per cent. Air New Zealand also picked up.

Tourism NZ interim chief executive Rene de Monchy has said inbound Australian­s would rescue a good portion of local operators. “By our modelling . . . it could be up to $1 billion and maybe even more that flows into our economy for the rest of this calendar year.”

However, initial flights this week have appeared to be carrying mostly family and friends desperate for reunion. Tourism is expected to take longer, perhaps into the June-July or October holidays.

One major campervan operator, Tourism Holdings Limited, told TVNZ that many Australian­s have been “window shopping”, with searches up, but not matched by an equivalent rise in bookings. If this is a concern here, imagine how the Australian tourism sector viewed the scenes of wha¯ nau weeping in each other’s arms. Chinese tourists — who pipped New Zealanders to become Australia’s number one market just before the pandemic — have always been big spenders, splashing out an average of $9,300 per person. New Zealanders, on the other hand, spend $1,973 each on average.

Even so, the gradual roll-up of aviation tourism is a far cry from the seaborne sector, which remains firmly at anchor. P&O Cruises Australia has announced there will be no departures before July 30, 2022. The transtasma­n bubble will rescue some of the New Zealand tourism sector while Australian counterpar­ts are more likely to be viewing it as a test-run to reopening more lucrative air bridges.

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