The arrival of a near-full Qantas flight into Queenstown marked a significant milestone in the recovery of New Zealand tourism.
It was the first passenger flight into the resort town, 330 days after the transtasman bubble popped last year.
Passenger loads into other airports have been strong since border restrictions began easing in February, first for New Zealanders and then for those from other countries.
But many of those arrivals were back to visit friends and family, not the tourists who arrived this week and who - pre-pandemic - contributed to spending in an industry that vied with dairy as this country's biggest foreign exchange earner.
Encouragingly, Qantas says Queenstown is making a particularly strong comeback and bookings across all of its 11 transtasman routes are showing positive signs in both directions.
Air New Zealand will soon return to the tourist town and it too has been enjoying strong transtasman loads on other routes. Other carriers are ramping up capacity, like Singapore Airlines which decided to increase services between Singapore and Christchurch to pre-Covid levels, with daily flights from the end of June particularly good news for the South Island.
The visitor industry was the first hit by the pandemic and will be among the last to recover. Following more than two years of pain for the sector, the touchdown at Queenstown was described by Tourism Minister Stuart Nash as "the beginning of the end".
It will be a long way back. Westpac estimates the closure of our borders and related net loss of international tourist dollars has resulted in a drag equivalent to around 2 per cent of annual nominal gross domestic product for the past couple of years.
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But the bank says that drag has already started to reverse, with visitor numbers rising quickly since the reopening of the border with Australia. Tourists from that country are especially welcome as they tend to travel far and wide and stay for longer than others. They also tend to make repeat visits.
Another big prize is the United States market, now the target of a concerted campaign by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Queenstown and Auckland tourism authorities and Air New Zealand which is restoring its pre-Covid network in the US, its most profitable route group.
Later this year, it will fly non-stop into New York, a market bigger than Australia, and where the PM plugged the country to travel media and on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
The timing should be better than the last time the pair met. Taxpayers paid more than $104,000 for a visit here by the host in October 2019, not long before the pandemic hit.
The ''New Zealand is open'' message needs to be targeted at those who will take summer vacations Downunder later in the year. Pre-departure testing for incoming tourists are in place until the end of July at this stage, presenting a speed bump for recovery in the meantime.
The Budget last week had little new targeted spending for tourism, instead allocating $54 million of unspent funds to an innovation programme with a welcome emphasis on building on moves under way before the pandemic to a more sustainable industry.