A new fund aimed at boosting the flagging Japanese tourist market has been launched.
Auckland Airport's $250,000 Japan Innovation Fund is aimed at pushing the number of Japanese tourists back towards 100,000 a year - up from about 60,000 a year now.
The airport's general manager aeronautical commercial Glenn Wedlock said New Zealand was battling for Japanese visitors with new destinations such as Croatia.
Hawaii had taken a big chunk of the honeymoon market, a lucrative one in the past.
Auckland Airport analysis predicts Japanese travellers could contribute $300 million each year in visitor value by 2020 - it was about $209 million at the end of 2011.
New Zealand tourist operators needed to think again about how they could package their products.
Once activated, the fund will be in place for 12 months, and airlines and other tourism providers will be able to apply for funding to support the development and marketing of products and services to Japan.
The airport's aeronautical business development team will be outlining how the fund works later this year in a series of workshops and meetings with the industry.
Wedlock said direct and indirect air links with Japan were growing. "We are seeing good growth in the market with several airlines increasing capacity between New Zealand and Japan, but there is huge potential to develop further demand from Japan if we get this right."
New Zealand needed to promote the range of food, wine and get leverage from The Hobbit movies when they were released.
Wedlock said many Japanese were trend-conscious and would visit "points of interest" that sprung from the movies.
Tourism New Zealand chief executive Kevin Bowler said the airport's support for tourism and innovation for an important market such as Japan would help it to recover from a period marked by natural disasters - last year's earthquake and tsunami - and economic challenges.
Jetstar to announce plans for NZ
Jetstar will today make what it is billing as an important announcement about its New Zealand-based operations, which it has signalled it wants to expand.
The airline is a bright spot in the loss-making Qantas group, now into its fourth year of flying domestic routes in this country.
Jetstar flies between Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin and Queenstown and has about 20 per cent of the domestic market. It has been investigating increasing capacity on existing routes rather than starting new ones.