Direct flights helping the “stars align” for Southland

Close to six months since the first direct flight connecting Southland with Auckland landed, the “stars continue to align” for the region as it reaps the benefits from the flight.
The Invercargill to Auckland service began on August 25 and so far more than 46,000 seats have been sold on the service in the five months since the flight was launched.

Of those seats, two-thirds of tickets have been sold to Southlanders, which an Air New Zealand spokesperson said was an increase of more than 20% on their Invercargill-based services.

“We’re pleased with how our non-stop Auckland-Invercargill service is going following its launch at the end of August,” the spokersperson told the Advocate South. “It’s great to see Southlanders get behind the new direct jet Invercargill-Auckland service.”

“Customers in Southland have embraced the direct jet service and we have been working closely with our partners in the region, including Great South, to attract more leisure travellers to Southland so it can become truly sustainable and contribute to the success of the Southland economy.”

Great South tourism and events general manager Bobbi Brown said the service had been amazing for the region and while there had been an early push for Southlanders using the flight for business and cargo to Auckland, there had still been a massive boost to the region from people coming into Southland.

She said it added to the growing confidence in the region entering the new decade.

“The timing is awesome. It feels like the stars are aligning with lots of things that are happening or are planned and at the moment. It’s sort of just making sure things happen at the right time that we balance the messages we send out. You kind of measure or manage those expectations. So the other thing I really like too is that it builds on what we already have. So a lot of this new stuff, is new and shiny but it’s actually building on a really strong community and tourism sector.”

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Economic Development Minister Shane Jones is welcomed off the first direct Auckland to Invercargill flight last August

Cutting travel times and allowing easier access was also adding to the success, she said.

“I was talking to somebody the other day who told me about some people from Auckland who had never been to Invercargill and just got on a plane. I’m seeing that happening around the place and I’m finding that even in our circles with other regions and inbound operators they’re sort of saying where have you been? We’re like we’ve always been here but now it’s just that perception for many that it’s easier to get here. It’s opened that door.”

Great South was in the process of compiling further data to look at specific statistics on how the service had impacted right across the region, Mrs Brown said, with the statistics being used alongside the Murihiku Destination Strategy to create a wider picture on tourism and services in the region.

“The strategy is all about that flight. It’s all about that connectivity. While it may not say specifically under every project this is a new experience that is going to allow a visitor to spend money and make the most of the flight, it all does. It all contributes.”

Invercargill Airport general manager Nigel Finnerty said the success of the service had exceeded expectations, with the airport already having an 8.9% increase in passengers in 2019 due to the service.

He said all the upgrades to the airport had been completed and were operating well, and the focus in the coming months would be to ensure the flight remained important to travellers.

“The fight continues to generate a huge amount of interest and excitement across the region. People are very excited and wanting to use it. A recent Webjet survey looking at the top 15 trending destinations for travelling Kiwis in 2020 found that the direct flight from Auckland helped put Invercargill onto this list with Rome, Sydney, Singapore and Brisbane… It’s taking away that perception of distance as a barrier and proving that Southlanders love being connected.”

He said having the route was a source of pride for the region.

“I think Southland is proud of having the jet and it is making a difference to the way we live down here.”

This article was originally written for The Advocate. You can read the published version here

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