8 Apr 2021

Australians 'pent up' for travel - NZ told to expect visitors

From Checkpoint, 6:18 pm on 8 April 2021

Australians are cautiously keen for a trip over the ditch, according to a travel agents industry group.

It is less than a fortnight until the quarantine-free bubble between New Zealand and Australia begins, on a state-by-state basis. 

The New Zealand government has developed a traffic lights system to give an idea of what could happen if community Covid-19 cases emerge. 

Australian Federation of Travel Agents chair Tom Manwaring told Checkpoint he was seeing good early numbers on airfares between Australia to Aotearoa.  

"Reaction has been very good, and it's above expectations for the carriers involved.

"I think it's a good boost for morale right across the board, providing it's consistent, and it's done with confidence. We don't want flights being pulled off at the last minute because of one or two cases either side of the ditch.

"There's 600,000 families [spread between the two countries] as you'd be aware. So there's a lot of VFR, we call them, visiting friends and relations.  

"You're the first and second cousins for us here in Australia… and I think that's really the market that's going to jump now. Tourists obviously are going down to Queenstown … but family yes because they've got accommodation either side, and they're not having to hit the, I would hope, the 14-day quarantine hotel costs.

"Coming out of winter into snow skiing, that's obviously going to be the top of the list for a lot of skiers around Australia like it always is.

"It's one of the best areas out of Australia. If you look at domestic traffic between Melbourne and Sydney, New Zealand's the next best, I think.

"This is the first international for us. You guys have been flying Kiwis into Australia, we just haven't been able to leave as well.

"So this is really the first test of this green-to-green country, pretty Covid-19 free both sides, so it's an important test and it's important that it stays consistent."

Skiers and snowboarders at Cardrona Alpine Resort

Skifields such as Cardrona are a magnet for Australian tourists, Tom Manwaring says. Photo: RNZ / Tess Brunton

Risk lies with travellers

Manwaring acknowledged the risk of high costs for travellers who could be stuck if a community outbreak occurred.  

"Insurance companies really, as soon as risk comes into it, they run off. So insurance companies won't cover anything to do with Covid-19. If you've got halfway over and your flight cancels because of Covid-19 then you can't get cover for that type of activity.

"You can for delays and credits and things like that ... if your flight's delayed because of a cancelled flight for a week or something like that, suppliers, hotels, tour operators, airlines would issue a credit, and that credit can then be changed but it will disrupt plans.  

"We've just got everything crossed to make sure that doesn't happen, that it's a free go, with the vaccinations rolling out as well."

Australians are renowned for the amount of money they spend while travelling, Manwaring said, so New Zealand can expect Australian travellers will be "doing the full tourist thing".  

"Over to the Coromandel, around the North Island, down to the South Island, Christchurch. As you're well aware Queenstown is a very popular place for Aussies, direct flights in there from Melbourne and Sydney I think.

"So those capacities will build. We love the open air and the fresh air, climbing mountains. I don't know about your sheep over there but anyway we get beaches, beautiful places. I've had a lot of trips in New Zealand, love it.

"And we love road trips too, hiring campervans and things and getting out into the wilderness, so that's great, and also on the ocean side down there with Auckland Harbour it's superb,  great food and superb wine - my favourite pinot area, Otago - yes, there's a lot to do.

"There's a pent-up demand in Australia. It's palpable, people want to get on a holiday."

He said he used to visit New Zealand every month before the pandemic hit. 

"We like to spend a dollar and our currency's in our favour, your average week's holiday is going to be a few thousand dollars I would have thought, the average spend - meals and getting out and about.

"If you're coming over for three days, leaving on Thursday, take a three-nighter, come back on the Monday - great way to spend four days and for the price, it's cheaper than a lot of domestic fares in Australia.  

"You're going to get a lot of us, you'll hear the Aussies around the place, particularly as we smash you guys at cricket and sailing and everything else."