Auckland Airport says the stars are aligning for an influx of visitors from Indonesia, a market it describes as the next China.
The company is launching a big marketing push with a double dose of celebrity power and a multimedia campaign in Indonesia whose economy, now the 16th biggest in the world, is forecast to be the seventh biggest by 2030.
The campaign is part of a $10 million a year marketing budget the airport has to expand tourism and build up more air links, primarily in the Pacific Rim.
Indonesian celebrity chef Farah Quinn arrived yesterday to film cooking shows that will be fronted by model and actress Jessica Iskandar.
The pair have more than 2.5 million Facebook and Twitter followers between them.
Java-born Quinn finished her high school years in the US and from there embarked on a culinary career.
Ala Chef is a cooking show where she gets to explore the regional cuisine and produce of Indonesia.
Their visit comes as Indonesian airline Garuda expresses growing confidence in starting services to New Zealand next year.
Earlier this year Garuda said it would fly to New Zealand when market conditions allowed and during the past week said Auckland would be part of its expansion plans in the third quarter of next year in addition to London and Brisbane.
The airline is undergoing substantial renewal and is due to take delivery of 24 new aircraft next year.
It has said it would use an Airbus A330 to fly to New Zealand.
Glenn Wedlock, general manager aeronautical commercial for Auckland Airport said Air New Zealand's decision to extend its Bali season was also positive.
Although aimed at New Zealanders flying to the tourist island, it would help create interest in Indonesia.
Air service negotiations were under way between Indonesian and New Zealand officials that could increase flights between the two countries.
Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee's office yesterday said discussions have been held with Indonesia and the Government expects new arrangements will be announced in the first quarter of next year. The existing agreement allows for 900 seats a week for the airlines of each country.
Quinn's popular show Ala Chef will feature her visit to Auckland and Queenstown, there will be a print media campaign including the Jakarta Post and a digital drive including the Luxury NZ website.
Wedlock said while potential visitors studied and learn online, most would finally "convert" through the travel agencies.
Quinn and Iskandar's social media followers were largely among the target market - the fast growing middle class.
Following Quinn's visit in May web traffic to New Zealand travel websites surged between 30 and 40 per cent.
During the past year Chinese and Taiwanese stars have also been brought by the airport and tourism partners to New Zealand to promote the country.
Unlike airlines, the airport was active in markets well before services started and was targeting the middle class and upper middle class.
The aim was to create demand and have seats filled at an "appropriate price", Wedlock said.
"We're building our New Zealand positioning in the market so there's a good yield for carriers when they do come in.
"We don't want to see a lot of capacity come in and everyone lowers their fares.
The airport was keen on knowing what worked and what doesn't work in the different markets. It was difficult for airlines to invest before they knew they had a strong competitive position.
Wedlock said the new campaign would work in the short term, even without direct air links to New Zealand. "It's kicking off because there is a peak season over the [NZ] summer period, Garuda and other carriers fly via Australia."
Last year 88,000 Indonesian visitors flew to Australia.
"We're setting up a level of engagement to hit those programmes up later in the year and again in the next holiday period."
As part of the airport's Ambition 2020 programme it aimed to increase the market to up to 50,000 Indonesian visitors a year who could spend more than $100 million a year. For the year ended September, 12,000 Indonesians visited.
New Zealand tourism forecasters had badly underestimated the growth of the Chinese market and the same was likely in Indonesia, the airport said.
"We do have this opportunity with Indonesia on our back door step. It's been a sleeping giant," Wedlock said.
Indonesian tourists were active visitors in the more lucrative "free independent traveller" market than some other nationalities.
There had been a proliferation of domestic and regional carriers which now provided strong links from throughout the archipelago to international airports, giving flights to New Zealand a greater pool from among the population of 240 million.
It was not clear yet where Garuda would fly from if it does resume services.By Grant Bradley Email Grant