In a win for Queensland's tourism sector, Air New Zealand (ASX: AIZ) has announced new flights are being added to regional airport schedules on a year-round basis.
The trans-Tasman flights have been secured for the Sunshine Coast, the Gold Coast and Cairns, giving some optimism to tourism operators currently reeling from interstate border restrictions.
It comes after the Queensland Deputy Premier Steven Miles urged locals to take advantage of recently opened hotel vacancies after border closures forced Sydneysiders to cancel their holidays this week.
The plan comes into effect after the already-scheduled winter seasonal service that begins on Monday 28 June and ends on 30 October.
According to QLD Tourism Minister Stirling Hinchcliffe the year-round trans-Tasman flights from Auckland and Christchurch will support almost 250 jobs and deliver at least $17 million to the state's visitor economy.
"The new flights add more than 26,000 seats to the flight schedules of three regional international airports as part of the Palaszczuk Government's commitment to helping tourism to rebuild better," Minister Hinchcliffe said.
"It's part of our investment of more than $860 million in direct support for the tourism industry's Economic Recovery Plan."
Member for Cairns and Assistant Tourism Minister Michael Healy said the extended flight schedule followed $10 million in the Budget for securing aviation routes.
"Queensland's Good to Go campaign has been screening across the ditch," Healy said.
"The iconic images of reef snorkelling and rainforests can be experienced in real life - here in Cairns - within just a few hours of departing Auckland."
Air New Zealand general manager sales Australia Paul McLean said he was delighted to be able to offer its customers year-round access to some of Queensland's most popular destinations.
"In 2019, around 500,000 trips were taken from New Zealand to Queensland, and Air New Zealand flew around half of these customers," McLean said.
"We know Kiwis love to escape to Queensland's warmer climes during the cooler winter months, and many Australians already take advantage of the ski season in New Zealand.
"For Queenslanders, extending to year-round direct services means good connections onto our domestic network and the chance to explore other parts of the country during the shoulder season."
Sunshine Coast Airport CEO Andrew Brodie said the announcement of a year-round service was a strong vote of confidence in the region.
"Today's announcement delivers 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," Brodie said.
Prior to the pandemic New Zealand was the Sunshine Coast'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," Visit Sunshine Coast CEO Matt Stoeckel said.
"Not only are they our largest 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."
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