Snow bringing Queenstown visitor boom

The Queenstown Airport Corporation is planning to fast-track $8 million of extensions to cope with increased pressure from trans-Tasman flights.

Corporation chief executive Steve Sanderson said yesterday six more international flights a week this winter was great for the airport, but the "sting in the tail" was that the airport needed significant capital expenditure to meet that growth.

Trans-Tasman flights will increase from 16 a week last winter to 22 this winter and additional trans-Tasman summer flights have also been announced.

The corporation was now looking at extending its baggage area and building another extension, which would triple the size of that area to 8000sqm.

Tenders would be called for that work soon and construction would occur this summer.

Extensions to the terminal's international arrivals hall would also be looked at this winter, with work starting during summer.

"Currently we're pretty limited to one full Boeing 737-Series 800 arriving at a time in the international hall. Now we have up to three in a one-hour period so it does start to put pressure on those facilities."

The corporation also had a capacity study under way looking at building a heavy taxiway down the side of the runway to relieve runway capacity pressures.

About 70 per cent of passengers arriving on the trans-Tasman flights were Australians, the rest other international visitors, usually from Europe, North American and Asia, visiting both destinations. Air New Zealand, Qantas and Pacific Blue had all indicated strong bookings for this winter, especially out of Brisbane, Mr Sanderson said.

Australian ski wholesalers reported another flurry of bookings during the past few weeks.

Anzcro Australia managing director Owen Eagles said bookings were up by more than 20 per cent this year.

"From our perspective it's excellent, we're up on last year, it's really encouraging and with snow falling there are still more to come." About 90 per cent of his company's New Zealand ski holiday clients came to Queenstown.

Ski Express national sales manager Melissa Watt said bookings slowed last month after "a massive booking pattern" earlier this year.

"But we're still seeing good bookings even now, which is good and that's unusual."

Ms Watt said some Australians might have been waiting to see what their Budget, released last month, brought before booking.

NZSki chief executive James Coddington said Australians had already flown over on impromptu ski holidays to hit the slopes at Coronet Peak, which opened on Saturday, after they heard about the good snow.

Rydges Hotel general manager John McIlwain said Australian ski holiday bookings had definitely picked up again during the last few weeks.

July and August were almost 10 per cent up on last year, which was a very strong season, and September was similar.

"There's a ton of snow up there at the moment, it's fantastic – I think that's what's made the Aussies look at booking because there's no snow in Australia at the moment."

Destination Queenstown chief executive Tony Everitt said the outlook was "quite positive", but businesses were waiting until "the money is in the bank" before they started celebrating.

The Southland Times