Grant Bradley

Aviation, tourism and energy writer for the Business Herald

Pressure on to ease Tasman travel

Australia's Tourism & Transport Forum wants streamlining of border formalities.

The Australian government is being urged to more than halve departure tax to A$25. Photo / Kenny Rodger
The Australian government is being urged to more than halve departure tax to A$25. Photo / Kenny Rodger

Pressure is building to make travel easier between Australia and New Zealand, a move that could help fill a million empty seats each year on flights across the Tasman.

Australia's Tourism & Transport Forum (TFF) wants a domestic flight-style travel experience at international airports in Australia and New Zealand by streamlining of border formalities on exit and entry.

Research by the forum shows that for every 1.5 per cent increase in ticket prices to Australia, demand drops around 1 per cent. On an A$275 airfare, the A$55 tax represents a 20 per cent increase over the base fare, suggesting a dampening of demand of around 13 per cent.

The TFF is pushing the Australian government to more than halve departure tax to A$25, wants to open new points of entry at secondary airports and develop common visitor visas to encourage more international visitors to combine both countries in one trip.

The campaign, launched yesterday, has the backing of tourism and business groups in this country.

Easing rules around transtasman travel is often on the agenda at bilateral talks between New Zealand and Australia but there has been no public signs of significant progress recently.

A spokesman for Customs Minister Nicky Wagner said it was an area the minister would like to see progress on.

Customs said the introduction of SmartGate in 2009 had made travel more convenient for more than nine million travellers, the age of eligibility had just been lowered to 12 years old and both countries were doing more work on the technology.

More than 1.2 million Australians crossed the Ditch in the year to June, while just over one million Kiwis visited Australia.

New Zealand Tourism Industry Association chief executive Chris Roberts said the implementation of the reforms being sought would unlock further growth from Australia by making travel across the Tasman easier and more affordable. Growing sustainable air connectivity was identified as critical to achieving the Tourism 2025 goal of almost doubling annual tourism revenue to $41 billion by 2025. "With close to one million seats going empty each year on transtasman flights, initiatives like these would be a real fillip for capacity on the routes," he said.

The Australia NZ Leadership Forum co-chair Rod McGeoch said removing the barriers to transtasman travel would significantly enhance trade and relations between the countries.


Visitor spend up by 11%


Total visitor spending in New Zealand grew by 11 per cent to $7.1 billion in the past year, driven by strong growth from the United States, Germany and China. The figures for the year ending June showed holiday visitors increased their spending by $800 million to $4.36 billion.

However, spending by Australians fell 4 per cent to $2.11 billion and business spending tumbled from $585 million to $459 million.

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