Growth of domestic tourism and freight is being targeted as the best way to get more value from Palmerston North Airport.
The airport company has returned a dividend just below the predicted $200,000 to city ratepayers for the 2012-13 financial year. It was a year when operational costs were up, and passenger numbers were slightly down.
But chief executive Darin Cusack told the city council's finance and performance committee yesterday that things were improving already.
The introduction of new direct services to and from Nelson in July had exceeded expectations. Introduced as a trial, Air New Zealand had confirmed the service would be retained. Expected to accommodate business travellers, the link had instead proven popular with people visiting friends and family or taking short holiday breaks.
"The future is about continuing to look at route development, to get more people and more cargo through the airport."
He said the company was working closely to ensure it was on Tourism New Zealand's radar in marketing to international visitors, and with agencies in the wider region trying to attract more domestic tourists.
Mr Cusack said another firm priority was retaining the airport's ability to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with no curfew.
Board chairman Derek Walker said that work was essential for developing the airport's role as the region strengthened its transport, logistics and distribution hub.
Asked about the prospects of runway extensions, international passenger and cargo services, the two men said the focus was firmly on the domestic market, and better connections to international links.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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