BY JAMES WILKINSON
Queensland’s Sunshine Coast is getting direct flights from Auckland from July 1 in a significant boost to tourism in the region.
Air New Zealand is launching the seasonal service to Maroochydore – which be operated by Airbus A230s on Tuesdays and Sundays until 18 September – in partnership with its’ trans-Tasman alliance partner Virgin Australia.
Air New Zealand Chief Executive Officer Rob Fyfe said the new flights, the first ever international services to and from from the airport, would cut significant travel time for Kiwis visiting the popular Sunshine Coast region.
“Every year almost a hundred thousand New Zealand leisure travellers arrive in Brisbane and make the 100km plus drive north to the popular Sunshine Coast beach resorts such as Noosa, Coolum, Mooloolaba and Maroochydore,” he said.
“This new service will cut down their travelling time by eliminating the commute from Brisbane Airport which can be more than two hours.
“There’s a long tradition of Kiwi travellers heading to Queensland for some winter sun so while we’re trialling this new service on a seasonal basis between July and mid September it may be possible to extend the season if there’s enough demand.”
The move was immediately welcomed by the Sunshine Coast Council Acting Mayor Tim Dwyer.
“This is fantastic news,” he said. “With this announcement, the Sunshine Coast is, in one fell swoop, elevated from a regional economy to a serious player on the national and world stages.
“Not only will this flight connect the Coast with our biggest international market in New Zealand but also offers the opportunity to connect via Auckland to markets in the US and beyond.
“We are truly entering a whole new chapter for tourism and economic activity,” he said.
Mantra Group CEO Bob East said the new flights would be a boon for hotel operators across the Sunshine Coast.
“The relationship with New Zealand travellers will now be even stronger with this increased flight capacity and to have a link to the all important US market for this region is an exciting prospect,” he said.
“With over 1000 rooms available in the Group’s Mantra and BreakFree properties in Noosa, Mooloolaba, Caloundra and Alexandra Beach we are well placed to service the expected increase in visitors.”
Queensland’s Tourism Minister Jan Jarratt said the new services are an “economic shot in the arm for local tourism operators”.
“This is a red-letter day for tourism on the Sunshine Coast and it shows this region has well and truly come of age,” Jarratt said.
“With Air New Zealand’s decision to trial two scheduled direct flights a week starting mid-year, the tourism industry and all those who support it have an incredible opportunity to grow their share of this important market and then some.
“New Zealand is the number one international market for the Sunshine Coast, accounting for 30% of its international visitors.
“It is estimated these seasonal flights will add another 50,000 new room nights and an expected $1.5million cash injection over the winter months. Connecting with American flights out of Auckland will also present opportunities for growth.
“Well done to Air New Zealand, Sunshine Coast Airport, Sunshine Coast Destination Limited and Tourism Queensland,” she said.
Tourism and Transport Forum (TTF) Chief Executive John Lee said the new flights were coming at an important time.
“This is great news for the Sunshine Coast and for the Queensland tourist industry at a time when it needs a shot in the arm,” he said.
“It also shows there is still a lot of potential to be unlocked in the New Zealand market, especially for destinations currently without international air access.”