Cheaper airfares to boost tourism

TRACY NEAL
Last updated 13:00 13/09/2012

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An airfare from Auckland to Nelson that is now cheaper than the cab ride from downtown to the airport was bound to be good for Nelson tourism, Abel Tasman Wilson's Experiences chief executive Darryl Wilson said.

Air New Zealand announced yesterday it is cutting airfares on many regional routes, including reductions into Nelson, to help stimulate tourism in the region.

Nelson spokesman for the Motel Association of New Zealand John Gilbertson said anything that helped bring people to the region at a dire time in regional tourism was welcomed by the industry.

The move will also please local travellers, who will be able to fly Nelson to Auckland for $79. Flights to Wellington and Christchurch will be $10 cheaper at $69 in a package of lead-in airfare reductions announced yesterday. Lead-in fares sell out first and may not be available on all flights.

The decision to cut regional fares comes after the national carrier's special invitation-only “Think Regional” tourism forum held in Nelson last week. Group general manager Australasia, Bruce Parton, said it followed on from recently announced cuts to Air New Zealand's domestic trunk fares and in response to feedback from those who attended the forum.

Mr Wilson said it was good that the airline was working with regional tourism industries to help at this highly competitive time.

"There's a perception that international travel is cheaper [than domestic travel], which is what airlines are having to contend with. It's great to see an offer that will encourage people to move around the country," Mr Wilson said.

He said his company was keen to engage more of the domestic tourism market, and the offer of better incentives meant investment in marketing and promotion had more resonance.

The forum was the first of its kind held by Air New Zealand, and was attended by Nelson's airline, business and economic development, local authority and tourism sector representatives. It also attracted similar sector representatives from New Plymouth, Rotorua, Marlborough, Hawke's Bay, Tauranga and Queenstown and was aimed at identifying achievable tourism growth strategies.

Mr Parton said the regions attending were those with a "strong track record of constructive engagement with the airline and others in the industry to collectively benefit regional tourism growth".

The airline said yesterday the timing of the announcement on the same day it was revealed that Air Nelson pilots were planning industrial action over their employment contracts, was coincidental.

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Nelson Tasman Tourism chief executive Lynda Keene was confident reduced airfares would generate more leisure visitors in spring.

"One of the outcomes of the forum is for both parties to be more active with promoting events and conferences which we believe will also generate interest from prospective travellers living in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.”

Mr Gilbertson said it was good to see the airline supporting attempts to boost travel to the regions, and he knew Nelson moteliers were pleased by the move at a time when there had been a "significant fall-off" in patronage.

He said Canterbury, Nelson's traditionally strong domestic market, had been heavily impacted by the earthquakes. "Part of the problem is that it's been very expensive to travel to the regions."

GOING DOWN

Examples of one-way lead-in seat-only fare changes:

Auckland-Nelson - was: $99; now: $79

Wellington-Nelson and Christchurch-Nelson - was: $79; now: $69

Auckland-Queenstown $99 $79

Wellington-Queenstown - was: $79; now: $69

- The Nelson Mail

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