Queenstown set to treble visitor quota

By Jarrod Booker

Calculations showed Queenstown would be hosting 4.3 million a year by 2030. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Calculations showed Queenstown would be hosting 4.3 million a year by 2030. Photo / Sarah Ivey

New Zealand's premier resort town is riding a wave of tourism growth, and considering how it might handle a trebling of visitor numbers in the next 20 years.

Although tourism suffered as a result of the global recession, and numbers from traditional markets such as Europe are still in decline, Queenstown has bounced back strongly because of buoyant visitor numbers from Australia.

The town's international airport is on course for record passenger numbers this financial year.

International visitor numbers are up 34 per cent, and the airport set a monthly record in January for passengers.

It is believed to be among the fastest growing in the world.

"We had advice 18 months ago... from Tourism New Zealand that there was the potential for a downturn in the order of 9 per cent in international visitor arrivals in New Zealand," said Queenstown Lakes District Mayor Clive Geddes.

"What that did for us - because we don't have any economic alternatives - was focus us very much on making sure that we committed more money into the Australian market, which we knew we could get a response from.

"And that's what we did, and I think that's now working for us."

Airlines are sharing in the push from local leaders.

Direct flights between Queenstown and Australia will increase this winter to 24 a week, from 16 last winter and 11 the winter before that.

"That's how quickly the Australian market is growing," Mr Geddes said.

Queenstown Airport chief executive Steve Sanderson said the airport was expected to reach a record 790,000 passengers for the year to June 30.

As well as the increase in international flights out of the airport this winter, a 30 per cent increase in direct flights to Auckland to cater for domestic tourists and Japanese tourists was expected, Mr Sanderson said.

"Obviously we are very proud to be managing an airport which is probably the fastest growing airport outside of China, I would imagine. It's very exciting, and the town has responded to that."

Calculations by the district council showed the district, hosting 1.3 million visitors a year, would be hosting 4.3 million a year by 2030.

Mr Geddes said this was based on what had happened over the past 20 years, and did not take into account the effect changes in the global economy and oil prices might have.

"It's a model we have built so we can get some understanding of what the future may look like."

- NZ Herald

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