18 Apr 2021

Bookings increasing as trans-Tasman bubble about to lift off

9:20 pm on 18 April 2021

On the eve of quarantine-free trans-Tasman travel starting between Australia and New Zealand, tourism industry figures say bookings are already strong.

A woman with a backpacker wheels a suitcase at an airport

Photo: 123RF

NZSki chief executive Paul Anderson said its Queenstown and Mt Hutt ski fields had seen a surge in sales from Australia, even though their ski season starts in June.

The strong start was being helped by Australia's school holidays falling early in the winter season, he said. And he was hopeful that demand would continue.

Quarantine-free travel between New Zealand and Australia begins at midnight tonight.

However, only 49 percent of New Zealanders are in favour of the bubble, and 22 percent weren't sure about it, a survey by Research New Zealand showed.

Those most in favour wanted the gate open first and foremost so travellers could be reunited with family and friends, with economic stimulation as the second strongest reason.

Anderson said Queenstown accommodation providers had also been reporting strong demand for bookings.

"It's early days, and obviously the sales in Australia have been almost non-existent until the announcement was made. So we're pleased to see that uptick in sales."

NZSki chief executive Paul Anderson (right) and The Remarkables ski area manager Ross Lawrence.

NZSki chief executive Paul Anderson (right) and The Remarkables ski area manager Ross Lawrence. Photo: SUPPLIED

Flights between Australia and Auckland would increase ten-fold with travel bubble's opening, Auckland Airport chief executive Adrian Littlewood said.

Air New Zealand has 30 flights scheduled to cross the Tasman tomorrow, with most of the 5000 passengers travelling into Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

The airline's chief executive Greg Foran said the reopening was a significant turning point for the company and marked "day one of our revival".

He estimated three-quarters of the airline's passengers were family and friends reuniting.

"I'll be digging out my passport... to head across the ditch to see my family, and I'm especially looking forward to meeting some of my grandchildren for the first time."

Furloughed crew had been brought back, training sessions run, and the airport were ready for the 'influx', he said.

"Pre- Covid-19, Australia was the largest tourism market for both our airline and New Zealand."

Destination Rotorua chief executive Andrew Wilson said the bubble could build a slow burn in demand for accommodation and strengthen later in the year.

Many Rotorua tourism operators had good Easter bookings and there are several conferences and events scheduled for the next few months, but they were missing the international guests.

"We're expecting that the first wave of people will be reuniting family and friends, and then we'll start to see bookings pick up from there."

The flights to New Zealand are only available to people who have been in Australia for longer than 14 days.

All travellers will have to wear masks, won't be able to travel if they have cold or flu symptoms, and have to fill out a pre-departure health declaration.

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