Bursting travel bubble creates avalanche

Aussie holiday cancellations turn icy Kiwi ski fields lukewarm

As New Zealand prepares to reopen its travel bubble with parts of Australia, the devastating effects of disruptions were evident in a recent “avalanche” of holiday cancellations on Kiwi ski fields.

The New Zealand Government has declared that quarantine-free trans-Tasman travel would again be available for residents of South Australia, Victoria, Tasmania, and the ACT from 11.59 pm on July 4.

However, passengers would need to provide a negative COVID-19 result before their departure.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s cabinet agreed in principle to lift the travel pause partially.

Her government plans to review travel to Queensland, New South Wales, Western Australia, and the Northern Territory.

All four areas have been undergoing regional lockdowns following a spread of new infections.

Cancellations across the ditch had started within hours of the quarantine-free travel bubble being paused last week.

The pause with Australia was felt particularly in and around the South Island ski resorts.

Hospitality New Zealand Chief Executive Julie White said members were reporting cancellations just hours after the pause was announced.

“Towns such as Queenstown and Wanaka had excellent bookings thanks to the Australian school holidays, but are reporting cancellations already and for some, these cancellations extend through to August,” Ms White said.

“This is not what the industry needs right now.

“Things were looking up, and with a big dump of snow, businesses were geared up for a busy few weeks. This is a kick in the guts for operators.

“We appreciate we need to manage the health risk; however this comes at a cost and our sector is at the brunt on this cost.

“Events like this are killing hospitality and tourist businesses. For some, it’s ruin by a thousand cuts.

“This is a further reminder to the Government, as if one should be needed, of the importance of getting everyone vaccinated as soon as possible.

“That should be given top priority over everything else the Government is doing right now.”

As snow settled on ski fields and Australian school holidays began, a pause in quarantine-free travel could not have come at a worse time, Queenstown Lakes Mayor Jim Boult said.

From the time New Zealand’s bubble with Australia was announced, Queenstown’s tourism sector knew there would be speed bumps along the way, he said.

With outbreaks in Australia in differing stages of containment and the health risk for New Zealand increasing, the pause was understandable.

 Mr Boult told the New Zealand Herald that it felt a bit like “we’re all dressed up and no place to go”.

He said the pause to the bubble was “a prudent measure, but it’s immensely concerning.”

He said one hotel operator had told him he had had suffered “an avalanche of cancellations.”

“We just do not need this at this time, just when the town is starting to get back on its feet.

“It’s a tough outcome, but understandable,” Mr Boult said.

Photo by Hiu Yan Chelsia Choi on Unsplash

Meanwhile, year-round direct flights from Auckland to Sunshine Coast Airport have been welcomed by tourism chiefs.

Queensland Tourism Minister Stirling Hinchliffe said that the direct flights had been secured as part of the COVID-19 Economic Recovery Plan.

Sunshine Coast Airport Chief Executive Officer, Andrew Brodie, said the announcement of a year-round service was a strong vote of confidence in the region.

He said the announcement delivered “on a long-held ambition to secure Air New Zealand flights to Auckland year-round, and our new, internationally capable runway will allow the service to operate without weight restrictions”.

 To support the launch of the direct flights, Visit Sunshine Coast (VSC), Tourism Noosa (TN) and the Sunshine Coast Airport (SCA) are launching an integrated multi-media campaign, in partnership with Air New Zealand, to attract Kiwis across the “ditch” to experience a warmer winter on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.

The campaign will run through to early July, with the promotion encouraging Kiwis to fly direct to the Sunshine Coast to arrive by lunchtime.

The Air New Zealand campaign highlights the fact that New Zealand travellers can depart Auckland in the morning and be dipping their toes in the Sunshine Coast waters by lunchtime. It also showcases the many activities, from dining to adventure, on offer across the region from Caloundra and Mooloolaba to Noosa and the hinterland.

Visit Sunshine Coast CEO Matt Stoeckel said prior to the pandemic, New Zealand was the region’s number one international market with 84,000 annual visitors, 650,000 room nights, and an economic value of $110 million.

“The recommencement of our Auckland service provides an incredible opportunity to grow our important Kiwi market. Not only are they our largest international market, but they also travel to the region when we need them the most (ie over winter) and are a great fit for our nature-based experiences and laid-back lifestyle,” said Mr Stoeckel.

Tourism Noosa CEO Melanie Anderson said: “The direct flights from Auckland to the Sunshine Coast provide a welcome opportunity to increase visitor nights and spend into Noosa.

“New Zealand has always been a very important visitor mix to our tourism industry and the destination’s economy. Noosa operators are looking forward to welcoming back the Kiwi market, and sharing our beautiful sunny winter days, sparkling beaches and rolling green countryside”.

Air New Zealand’s Chief Customer and Sales Officer, Leanne Geraghty said that the airline was thrilled to have the direct flights to the Sunshine Coast up and running again.

“The Sunshine Coast is the perfect destination for a mid-winter break, so we will be offering three direct flights per week on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday to allow as many kiwis as possible escape for some much-needed R&R.

“It’s also a wonderful family holiday destination, so it’s no surprise that we are seeing demand for flights ramp up over the upcoming school holiday period.”

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