What New Zealand travel bubble means for Coast
Coast tourism providers hope confidence will be restored in international travel as the region prepares to roll out the welcome mat for New Zealanders.
Jacinda Ardern announced on Tuesday the trans-Tasman bubble allowing unrestricted travel between Australian and New Zealand borders would begin at 11.59pm on April 18.
The New Zealand Prime Minister said travellers would need to plan for the possibility of their trip being disrupted if there was a COVID-19 outbreak, similar to the Brisbane lockdown last week.
Mercure Hotel manager John Orning said the news was a positive sign for the industry.
"Anything that opens up travel is brilliant for the tourism sector, especially now when the domestic travel has dropped down a bit," he said.
"It is a strong market for the Sunshine Coast already and I think that it will definitely give all travel a boost."
However Mr Orning was cautious of how unpredictable COVID restrictions were and said he believed flights wouldn't be filled instantly.
He said the Kawana Waters hotel had received several cancellations from guests over the Easter period who couldn't rely on the Brisbane lockdown lifting.
Prior to the pandemic:
- New Zealand was the number one international market for the Sunshine Coast
- The Coast attracted 84,000 visitors accounting for 650,000 room nights
- New Zealand visitors have a value of $110m for the Coast tourism economy
- Holiday visitor average length of stay on the Sunshine Coast of 7.9 nights
"The confidence in travel further away is not there," he said.
"People are happy to travel short distances but we already see now there's more reluctance to travel from the southern states, especially when it comes to corporate travel, because you don't know if there will be a new hotspot tomorrow."
Despite the uncertainty, Mr Orning said the travel bubble announcement could introduce a new market to the region.
"I think we will continue to see a change in the market," he said.
"The travel pattern is changing … you might not go as far away but it might open up that we see more people travelling between New Zealand and the Sunshine Coast than before."
The travel bubble is also expected to benefit residents.
More than 13,000 people, who listed New Zealand as their birthplace in the 2016 Census, live on the Sunshine Coast.
That is 4.5 per cent of the population - the second highest foreign birthplace, following the UK.
The Sunshine Coast Airport has confirmed direct flights from Auckland into the region would be offered from June 28.
Visit Sunshine Coast chief executive Matt Stoeckel welcomed the news as a critical step for the region's tourism recovery.
"Previously, the New Zealand holiday visitor would stay for an average of 7.9 nights, and with seasonal direct flights from Auckland, Kiwi travellers have found our climate, nature-based experiences and laid-back lifestyle particularly attractive over the winter months," he said.
"We know there is huge pent-up demand in New Zealand for international travel and have been working in the background to prepare for the borders to reopen.
"We have a dedicated resource in New Zealand that has been developing strategies and activities for our market re-entry that will commence from tomorrow in anticipation of the first services to Australia from April 18, 2021."