Sparks fly in airport spat
The suggestion that Queenstown Airport is bigger than its Christchurch counterpart has sparked a war of words emphasising the growing rivalry between them.
Speaking at a Queenstown Lakes District Council finance meeting last week, airport chief executive Scott Paterson said peak international passenger volume increased by 23.8 per cent.
"In the last month (August), volume grew almost 20 per cent. For July, Queenstown was the second-largest recipient of Australian visitors in the country. We are bigger than Christchurch."
The reported comments prompted a response from Christchurch Airport chief executive and Queenstowner Jim Boult, who said July and August was when Australian skiers "spiked" the number of arrivals in the resort.
Christchurch handled about 80 per cent of all international visitors to the South Island.
"July/August is the only time of year when Queenstown Airport can make the claim it has more Australian arrivals than Christchurch or Wellington.
"Our numbers have suffered because of the earthquakes, lack of accommodation and lack of a convention centre but they are starting to come back again.
"To take nothing away from Queenstown, I am delighted to see the growth in arrivals there is fantastic but obviously the loss of convention facilities, sports facilities and tourism attractions put a dent in the numbers flying directly through here."
Mr Paterson said the growth in international arrivals was clear and there was a trend of increasing market share growth in other months besides the July and August ski season peak.
If all the international visitors spent an extra night in Queenstown rather than staying a night in Christchurch the region was better off by $14 million a year, he said.
Auckland Airport, a shareholder in Queenstown Airport, pushed visitors to Queenstown and this underscored the importance of the alliance with the country's largest visitor hub.
"There's a high probability of any international passenger, a lot of them will come to Queenstown. July and August, we can claim to have more international visitors. We were not far off having half of international visitors (for the South Island in July)."
On the flipside, for the 12 months to July, Christchurch Airport welcomed 1.3 million international passengers including more than 430,000 Australians.
Mr Boult said the South Island hub welcomed another 4.2 million domestic passengers, a total of 5.5m, and this July was the first time that Queenstown Airport had more Australian arrivals in one month than Christchurch.
"Taking the broader view, in the past year Queenstown Airport welcomed a total of 1.2m passengers (combined domestic and international). Christchurch Airport is undoubtedly New Zealand's second largest airport."
Broadly, over the past five years, Queenstown's share of the international visitor market has increased from about five per cent to 16 per cent.
In July, almost 20,000 Australian flew directly to Queenstown, up 15 per cent on 2012.
- The Mirror