Queenstown to Te Anau commercial flights to boost tourism
A new scheduled return flight from Queenstown to Te Anau could enhance Te Anau's growing tourism.
Air Milford, a scenic-flight operator based at Queenstown Airport, landed its first commercial flight in Te Anau on Saturday.
Operations manager and pilot Antony Sproull said tourism in Te Anau was booming and had never been stronger, so the scheduled flight would benefit the area.
Te Anau is what Queenstown was a few years ago and the airport there made the area accessible for tourists, Sproull said.
The Te Anau Airport had been largely unused for several years with scenic flights, helicopter flights and flights to the Chatham Islands being the main services, he said.
The new service would utilise the airport.
Destination Fiordland tourism manager Philippa Murrell said numbers of visitors to Te Anau had increased during recent years.
"New Zealand is a safe place to travel," she said.
According to the latest regional tourism estimates from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Enterprise (MBIE), the total annual tourism spend in Fiordland increased from $27 million to $213 million in 2016, compared with 2015.
"Reasons to visit are key to maintaining growth in a destination, so it is so exciting to have new products in Te Anau and Manapouri providing more variety for visitors and the new flight service provides another option for people to access our beautiful region," she said.
The flight carried two paying passengers - Eleanor Pearson and her 8-year-old grandson Kayden Pei. It was Kayden's first time on a plane.
The pair woke about 7am to be able make the 25-minute flight that showcased views of Mt Nicholas, Mavora Lakes, Von Valley and Lord of the Rings scenery, Sproull said.
If the service was a success, a permanent service would be run through the summer time as fog and weather conditions in winter would be a hinderance, he said.
Air Milford had been planning to introduce the service for two years.
In February 2016, the company bought its third Cessna turboprop aircraft, making the company more flexible and better able to run the service.