Virgin Australia will fly direct from Newcastle to New Zealand from November in a major boost for the Hunter region’s tourism industry.
Currently, international tourists represent just 5 percent of visitation to an area renowned within Australia for its wine industry.
CEO of Tourism Accommodation Australia, Carol Giuseppi, said the new flights represent a “tremendous opportunity” to grow the region’s visitor economy.
“Today’s announcement further reinforces the growing importance of Newcastle as a globally competitive gateway city, with significant development already underway,” she said.
“Importantly, this growth will come from both leisure and business visitors to the region.“Increasing access for international visitors via direct flights into Newcastle Airport will provide more time to explore the greater region, in particular the Hunter Valley with its world-class accommodation, wineries and restaurants, and Port Stephens with its wonderful beaches and national parks.”
The announcement is expected to attract regional investors in the visitor economy, with a 170-room Holiday Inn Express Newcastle West set to open later this year and a range of other projects in planning that will add to the 6,500 rooms throughout the region.
“Without doubt, the real winners of today’s announcement are the accommodation and tourism businesses in the Hunter region who support close to 21,000 jobs and currently make a $2.3 billion direct and indirect contribution to the economy,” said Giuseppi.
The three-hour flights will operate on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays at a cost of $350 one way. Tickets are on sale at $199 one way until midnight Thursday for travel excluding December 12 to January 28.
The plane, a 176-seat Boeing 737-800, will leave Auckland at 5.10pm and arrive in Newcastle at 6.45pm. The return flight will leave Newcastle at 7.30pm and arrive in Auckland at 12.25am.
The flights will run initially only this summer, from November 22 to February 17, but will continue if they are deemed commercially viable.
Phil Kasselis, Managing Director of Pro-invest Hotels Group, the operator of the Holiday Inn Express hotel, welcomed the announcement of international air services to Newcastle.
“This city has changed enormously over the past decade,” he said.
“Increased infrastructure development has increased Newcastle’s and the wider region’s appeal as a commercial, medical, educational and tourism hub, for the benefit of all residents and visitors to the region.”
The Hunter region’s largest hotel and tourism investor Dr Jerry Schwartz, who owns three hotels in Newcastle and the Hunter Valley, as well as the Hunter Valley Convention Centre, Lovedale Brewery and Blue Sky Airlines, also welcomed the announcement.
“We believe there is great opportunity to grow leisure, conference and business travel from New Zealand, with the Hunter Valley offering exceptional tourism attractions as well as one of Australia’s leading regional conference and events centres,” said Dr Schwartz.
“Newcastle can become an exciting new gateway city for international travel to Australia’s east coast, with easy air, road and rail access to Sydney and other destinations along the coast.”