High hopes for air link plan
A potential Auckland, Nelson and Queenstown air link could bring an increase in visitors to the region, Nelson Tasman Tourism says.
Chief executive Lynda Keene raised the possibility of a link at a Nelson Tasman Chamber of Commerce/Crowe Horwath lunch yesterday, with Air New Zealand chief executive Christopher Luxon saying the airline was open to a proposal on the route.
The idea would be to have international and domestic visitors travel from Auckland to Nelson and through to Queenstown.
Mr Luxon said yesterday the key for the airline was understanding what the region was trying to achieve with such a link, and he encouraged the organisations to put their heads together and come up with a proposal.
"With Auckland, Nelson and Queenstown you have three main centres in the country. There's quite complementary activities there and a coalition of activities there, so it would be something we'd be interested to hear more about."
Ms Keene said the link could be trialled through summer, and if there were good loadings, it could be added as a regular route.
The route meant international or domestic visitors could have an urban experience in Auckland, a coastal experience in Nelson, and an alpine and lake experience in Queenstown, she said.
"That's three propositions for a traveller, with the ease of direct links."
The link could go both ways, with international visitors who arrived in the country through Christchurch moving up the country via Nelson.
Queenstown would be on a high percentage of travellers' itinerary, so the link would be a way for Nelson to capitalise on that popularity, she said.
She compared it to the link with Palmerston North, begun in July, which had proven popular with travellers in both directions. In that case, Palmerston North had driven the link, as they had the most to gain. She said she was pleased with the response, and NTT would now be working on a more detailed plan with Destination Queenstown and the Nelson Airport.
"It looks like there's an open door and it's up to us now."
She expected it would take until next autumn before a trial would commence.
Nelson Airport general manager Kay McNabb said the airport had been promoting this route to Air Nelson for some years.
The route was a chance for the airline to "double clip" the ticket for passengers flying into New Zealand.
"When international flights land in Christchurch many of the passengers want to go to Queenstown.
"If they fly to somewhere else on their route back to Christchurch then the airline gets two more fares and the passenger gets a broader New Zealand experience."
If that "somewhere else" option included a Nelson connection then a number of opportunities opened up, she said.
But she warned there were a few obstacles to the plan, including aircraft availability and the need for a larger aircraft.
"We are confident that they are listening and that any work we can do to assist them in determining the viability of any route proposal is beneficial in their decision-making."