"New Zealand was Australia's second biggest source of international visitors before the pandemic. Today, it's about to go straight to number one," says Qantas CEO Alan Joyce.
As of today and for the first time since the pandemic began, Australians are being welcomed into New Zealand without having to complete two weeks of mandatory quarantine.
While the bubble gives many the opportunity to visit friends and family in New Zealand, it also means tourists from across the ditch will have confidence to see Australia without having to set aside a fortnight of isolated tedium when they get back home.
However, travel between the two countries will not be like it was pre-COVID. The guidance is for a "flyer beware" approach; if an outbreak is detected in certain part of Australia, travellers who have been to the affected area will not be compensated for any sudden quarantine required.
In any case the sector has been emboldened by the move, with airline Qantas (ASX: QAN) even adding new flight paths from tourist hotspots including the Gold Coast and Hobart to New Zealand.
Qantas says "Kia Ora"
For Qantas, today marks the first quarantine-free trans-Tasman flights in over 400 days and means 630 employees will get back to work.
The first international flight for Qantas was from Sydney this morning, with flights to resume across 14 other routes during the day.
In total, 29 Qantas/Jetstar flights between Australia and New Zealand will operate today.
Speaking from Sydney International Airport to farewell departing passengers, Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said the opening of the two-way travel bubble was a significant milestone for both countries.
"Quarantine-free travel has been almost 400 days in the making. Reopening these flights across the Tasman is a very important milestone in the recovery from the pandemic for Australia and New Zealand but also aviation and tourism," Joyce said.
"The opening of the two-way bubble is fantastic for the family and friends who are reuniting after so long apart and for the many jobs which are so heavily dependent on tourism. It means we'll be able to get more planes back in the sky and more of our people back to work.
"New Zealand was Australia's second biggest source of international visitors before the pandemic. Today, it's about to go straight to number one."
Airports open up to NZ
Australian airports are also flying high on the milestone today, with many friends and families to reunite in terminals this week.
Brisbane Airport Corporation (BAC) CEO Gert-Jan de Graaff says the travel bubble is vitally important as New Zealand is one of Queensland's most important international markets.
"Today is an incredible day for the many families and friends who will be able to reunite, but also for the thousands of businesses in Brisbane, the regions, and across Queensland who rely on tourism," he says.
"Brisbane Airport will welcome flights from Christchurch and Wellington for the first time since 28 March 2020, some 387 days, which, for us, it has felt almost as long as the last time the Wallabies won the Bledisloe Cup."
In 2019, around 1.5 million passengers flew between BNE and New Zealand, with more than 100 flights each week and five airlines operating services to five New Zealand cities (Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington, Dunedin, and Queenstown).
In Victoria more than 19 trans-Tasman flights will land in Melbourne today, which equates to approximately 4,000 seats.
Each week around 140 services will operate between Melbourne and New Zealand, and the number will rise to 180 weekly flights by the end of May taking the airport back to around 70 per cent of its pre-COVID flight capacity.
Melbourne Airport Chief of Aviation Lorie Argus said New Zealand was an important market to re-establish.
"We're absolutely thrilled to see international travel restart, bringing us one step closer to normality. Now people at both ends can dust off their passports to visit family and friends, and take that long-awaited holiday," Argus said.
"New Zealand is a significant market for Melbourne and Victoria. It is our most popular outbound international destination and our second busiest inbound market so we're confident both sides will be busy.
"Hopefully the safe reopening between Australia and New Zealand can be used as a blueprint for other international markets throughout the year."
Destination Gold Coast announces $1.3m marketing blitz in NZ
The Gold Coast turned out a big show for trans-Tasman arrivals this morning, including a sky diving display featuring giant Australian and New Zealand flags landing at the southern end of the airport during sunrise.
This extravaganza for visitors comes as tourism marketer Destination Gold Coast puts forward a $1.3 million marketing push to attract Kiwis to the city.
Destination Gold Coast CEO Patricia O'Callaghan says the campaign will debut on 21 April.
"We know New Zealanders can't wait to come back to the Gold Coast and they will be welcomed with open arms by our 4,600 tourism businesses," O'Callaghan says.
"Our $1.3 million marketing push is the Gold Coast's largest-ever spend in New Zealand, so the proportion of investment reflects the importance of re-engaging with this key visitor market.
"New Zealand was our second-largest international visitor market source pre-COVID and this is a significant milestone for Gold Coast tourism operators being the first international market to come back online in more than a year."
The 12-week campaign will entice New Zealanders to come and play through great value holiday offers promoted on national TV networks in partnership with House of Travel, New Zealand's most awarded travel group, and across cinema, digital placements and on social media.
O'Callaghan says Kiwis have a strong affinity with the Gold Coast.
"One per cent of all Kiwis live on the Gold Coast and we know an annual holiday to our region is a tradition for thousands of Kiwi families who will now be able to flee winter for a sun-soaked holiday.
"The marketing approach reinforces the Gold Coast as top-of-mind for families abroad and our visiting friends and relatives' market.
"The campaign will highlight the Gold Coast's top-rated travel activities and a breadth of lesser-known experiences in addition to our golden beaches, rainforest hinterland, iconic theme parks, alfresco dining and calendar of events."
Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate says the Gold Coast is a second home for New Zealanders.
"To our Kiwi cousins, I say come and play on the Gold Coast," he said.
"To see international flights arriving and departing gives us all great confidence that this is not the first travel bubble to expand out of the coast.
"Let's roll out the welcome mat just don't mention the rugby as we still can't pinch that trophy off them."
Queensland Airports Limited CEO Chris Mills said the airport team and tourism operators were extremely excited about the resumption of trans-Tasman travel, with 16 services scheduled in the first week alone.
"We have been waiting more than 12 months for the restart of international travel and today it begins with one of the Gold Coast's most important overseas markets and Australia's closest neighbour," he said.
"Given the impact of this separation on so many people, we are expecting to see lots of emotional reunions at Gold Coast Airport over the next few weeks.
"With 60,000 Kiwis living on the Gold Coast and the region rating highly on travel wish lists of New Zealand residents, we expect these services to be extremely popular in both directions."
Mills said the start of the inaugural Qantas Gold Coast-Auckland service on day one of trans-Tasman travel made the milestone day particularly special.
"Recovery is ramping up for the airport and the tourism operators we support, and Qantas starting the first international service in the airport's history has given us even more reasons to celebrate today," he said.
Air New Zealand taking off
On the other side of the Tasman, Air New Zealand (ASX: AIZ) is expecting more than 5,000 passengers to travel today between NZ and Australia.
Air New Zealand chief executive Greg Foran, a former head of Woolworths and Wal-Mart US, says the airline's trans-Tasman routes are firing on all cylinders.
"The accumulation of the opening of the trans-Tasman bubble and the start of the Kiwi school holidays has created a real sense of momentum and energy about the whole airline," says Foran.
"Monday will go down in history as one of the most monumental days for Air New Zealand and a real turning point for the airline. It's Day 1 of our revival.
"We estimate that three-quarters of our passengers crossing the Ditch will be family and friends reuniting with loved ones. We're humbled to be part of these reunions and reconnecting people who have missed out on so much over the last year."
Shares in AIZ are up 0.30 per cent to $1.64 per share at 12.01pm AEST.
Updated at 12.19pm AEST on 19 April 2021.
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