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Current as of 24/10/14 07:40PM NZST

Owen Hembry

Business news editor of the New Zealand Herald

Aussies boost Air NZ coffers

Explore NZ says it has enjoyed a boost from the tournament. Photo / Supplied
Explore NZ says it has enjoyed a boost from the tournament. Photo / Supplied

Australia reaching tomorrow's Rugby World Cup semifinal may spark nerves for some All Blacks supporters but Air New Zealand group general manager for Australasia Bruce Parton says it is good for business.

"We've seen a huge number of Australians now jumping on planes to get over for this weekend," he said.

"From a commercial perspective that probably couldn't have been a better result for us because obviously we don't fly to South Africa."

Air New Zealand originally expected a $40 million benefit from the World Cup which was downgraded to $30 million when games in Christchurch were cancelled after the February 22 earthquake.

Parton said September had been a little lower than expected and October probably a little better.

"So the two will balance themselves out."

The airline was a little down on what had been hoped for regional traffic.

"My pick of the situation is that the New Zealand leisure [market] has dropped and I think that's been compensated for by overseas leisure but probably not to the extent that the tourism market was hoping," Parton said.

"But still it's a significant increase year on year, there's no question that we've done better than we did last [year]."

The airline had used normal pricing over the tournament, he said.

"It's been really important for us that we've been able to give, in particular corporate New Zealand, but also leisure New Zealand, the message that as long as you're not trying to fly on the night of the final there's still loads of cheap airfares in the marketplace."

There had been fears before the tournament of potential price gouging in the tourism industry.

"I think the fears on that issue have probably been unfounded," Parton said. "If I look in general across the industry I think air fares have been pretty reasonable, if I look across hotels ... outside of the finals night we still get pretty normal rates."

Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development chief executive Michael Redman said tourist arrivals to Auckland were rising and sales at two central-city tourist information offices and a call centre since September 9 were up about 42 per cent on last year.

Anecdotal feedback from some operators showed November bookings were much stronger than last year, he said.

"I think that probably reflects a combination of people staying on and some of the displacement factor kicking in where people changed their travel to be here outside of Rugby World Cup.

"While some of our operators are getting varying results there are a number who are really reporting the Rugby World Cup's been a really significant boost for them. Obviously some are weather-dependent and some will have prepared better for the tournament than others, but generally for the major operators we're getting really good feedback about their results."

Explore NZ managing director William Goodfellow said the tourism operator had seen a good boost from the tournament, particularly in its Auckland business.

"Our September, for example, was basically twice what we had the previous year [in the domestic business]," he said. "We've seen a big increase, we haven't enjoyed quite the growth in the Bay of Islands but there's still been positive impact and it's certainly very welcome to have any additional business at this time of year so very pleased, really, with the way it's going.

"The displacement in terms of what our business would have been, it's hard to say how much of that we've lost. However, I guess the result is that we're getting an overall significant increase."

The company - with products including sailing, dolphin watching and island cruising - got on the front foot in preparing for the tournament, chasing leads including the official travel agents network, and there had been a good rise in walk-up traffic. Corporate business was also important.

"We tried to work out where the sponsorship leads would come from. That was working through existing channels with corporate event organisers and conference organisers who have relationships in those areas."

- NZ Herald

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