Invercargill to Auckland Direct 5 Days A week – Game Changer For Southland

Jul 17, 2019

In just six weeks Southlanders will beable to enjoy non stop jet service Invercargill to Auckland direct.

Air New Zealand hosted a presentation for local media and business leaders at the Handle Bar above Classic Motorcycle Mecca.

Air New Zeland released numbers including over 11,500 seats booked already, other information presented to media and busiess leaders at the Southland Chamber of Commerce hosted presentation were:

  • 11,500 seats have been booked todate
  • The A320 service five-times a week starts on August 25
  • One way pricing starts from $79 per person
  • The route will be the longest in Air New Zealands domestic network
  • Direct economic benefit to the Southland region is estimated upwards of  $11.5million

Air New Zealand head of regional affairs Reuben Levermore said while it would be running as a trial, with no end date. It’s up to the Southland community to support this trial. “As long as the service is performing, it’s going to continue.”

Air New Zeland also stated they are commited to low fares similar to direct flights from Dunedin and Queenstown for the service to be successful.

Below is part of the speech by Great South acting CEO Ann Lockhart.

This is my first official speaking engagement in my role as Chief Executive for the newly established Great South so it is an incredible privilege to be able to speak about the establishment of these game-changing flights between Auckland and Invercargill.

Southlanders are renowned for rolling up their sleeves, getting stuck in and making the most of opportunities that come their way, and also, particularly in this case, being proactive about making big things happen.

Establishing direct flights between two places, especially two places at opposite ends of the country, does not just happen overnight and before I go any further I’d like to extend both my thanks and also my congratulations to the people that have made this happen.

Thank-you to all those that wrote letters of support and contributed to a regional partnership and the development of a strong business case.

Thank-you to the Regional Marketing Group including the Invercargill Licensing Trust, Southern Institute of Technology, SBS Bank, New Zealand Aluminium Smelter, South Port, and Invercargill Airport.

I’ve been told that within only 12 hours, these groups had confirmed their commitment to advance marketing of this potential flight route.

12 hours!? In the time that we could travel to Singapore enjoying snacks, inflight entertainment and legroom – depending on the type of seat purchased, Southland was able to come together to create a cooperative fund to market a the flight route.

That’s definitely something to be proud of.

Also playing a significant part in this story to date is the work being done to redevelop the Invercargill Airport.

Nigel and the team are doing something very special and because of this we know that people’s first contact with Invercargill – if they choose to fly down – will be very impressive. We’re all looking forward to the finished product and thank-you for your hard work in making this happen.

Thank-you to Air New Zealand for working with this region to make this happen.

While I’ve not been directly involved in the journey to get to this point, I’m now lucky to lead the team of people who previously worked for Venture Southland and carried out the significant research which  helped to orchestrate this flight service,.

I’ve been given the very impressive rundown of how this was able to come into effect and now I’m given the opportunity to relive this story of success here tonight.

The flight path was originally initiated in 2008 when an air business survey was carried out by Venture Southland to assess the demand for air passenger transport services across the Southland region.

One of the key findings of the survey was that a large number of Southlanders were bypassing Invercargill to take advantage of cheaper fares and direct flights on offer out of Dunedin and Queenstown airports.

According to the survey, 24,900 flights were taken through Dunedin and 16,400 through Queenstown in preference to Invercargill each year.

These alarming numbers and the other findings of the survey emphasised that a comprehensive business case would need to be developed for New Zealand’s major air carriers to put direct flights to Invercargill on their radar.

In 2017, with significant structural and infrastructural challenges identified along with rapid changes in visitor numbers and travel patterns recognised across Southland, it was decided to carry out a second air travel survey so that this business case could be developed.

Again, the survey found a high number of respondents to departing from other airports as a result of price and availability or direct flight routes.

Of the respondents 54% of travellers flying for personal reasons and 24% of business travellers were using a different airport.

This made it evident that Invercargill Airport had room to grow both through attracting a greater share of existing travel and developing further opportunities.

It was also identified that Southland people felt they were missing out opportunities due to a lack of direct and affordable flights between Invercargill and Auckland.

With this in mind – it was the Auckland to Invercargill flight route that was identified as priority for development.

From a business perspective, the previous flight configuration to Auckland has been inefficient, time-consuming and expensive.

This has forced businesses to limit the times they travel and prioritise the meetings that they can attend.

These concerns have also highlighted the perceived concept of isolation with visitors and sector representatives not easily being able to reach what we’re sure is the best region in New Zealand.

This has had flow-on effects for businesses who have found the attraction and recruitment of quality staff difficult and had to factor more logistical requirements for exporting.

It’s also made it slightly trickier to promote Southland as a preferred destination as perceived ideas around cost and ease of access to the region have been loud voices in the marketplace.

Although we know that our incredible Southland welcome, hardworking and innovative business sector, delicious southern fare, and ability to access some incredible spots and attractions have proved these perceptions to be incorrect – now we’re standing at the forefront of some game-changing activity for Southland.

The research that was carried out along with the overwhelming community support received, helped Air New Zealand to realise that direct flights to and from Invercargill were worthy of consideration.

We’re incredibly lucky to have an air carrier that is committed to regional New Zealand and to providing opportunities for residents and visitors alike.

We are incredibly grateful for the support and collaborative approach Air New Zealand has applied to responding to calls for action and  the developing this flight route, together we’ve been able to achieve something very significant.

The new schedule of flights which launches on 25 August 2019 will become the longest domestic Air New Zealand flight and will signal the start of an exciting chapter for the Southland region.

There’s endless benefits to be sought for both local businesses and the wider Southland tourism industry by encouraging itineraries into some of New Zealand’s best-kept secrets including the Catlins, Stewart Island, Fiordland and other Southland destinations.

We’re all for sharing the secrets of the South to ensure we can all benefit from increased visitor numbers and most importantly increased visitor expenditure.

It’s forecast that over the next three years, the direct economic benefit of the flights for the region could be between $11.3 and $12.5 million.

With the Southland region producing 15% of New Zealand’s tradable exports, our Southland exporters will now have improved access to the Auckland market and an even stronger foundation to leverage their product, service and brand to the world.

Every week between 17-21 metric tonnes of freight is moved overland for export via Christchurch, and not surprisingly this number almost doubles to 37 metric tonnes during oyster season.

Through these new flights there is the potential for an additional 50 metric tonnes to be shipped from Invercargill airport.

This increase opens the doors for Southland businesses to consider exporting, provides an opportunity for those who do export to expand their product lines, and encourages investors from outside of the region to consider the Southland market.

It’s no secret that increased business and trade leads to increased confidence, all of which helps to retain the talent already in Southland, and attract more to build the region’s  the innovative foundation.

The major goal of the Southland regional development strategy is to attract 10,000 more people here before 2025,

Increased connectivity, business confidence and a being able to offer a great quality of life – all elements which these new flights contribute, will help us to achieve this goal.

Tourism and international education are identified in the Southland Regional Development Strategy as major sources of opportunity for the region, and both sectors will significantly benefit from the establishment of these flights.

Students from around the world will be able to arrive in New Zealand and with one flight from Auckland will be in Invercargill where endless educational and extracurricular opportunities await them.

The new flights also mean that the perception of distance between students and their families overseas is reduced and as a result, we will all be able to enjoy more vibrancy and diversity that will be achieved through increased numbers of international students.

Eliminating the notion that we are so far away is also set to be a game changer for our tourism industry with the new flights confirming Southland’s availability to the rest of New Zealand and the wider world.

Now we’ll be able to target the wide range of markets that use Auckland as their first point of contact with New Zealand and promote how easy it is to reach the dramatic, awe-inspiring and iconic wildnerness that Southland is home to.

While increased connectivity is going to help people consider Southland as a travel destination, we know that the exciting work taking place across the region in terms of infrastructure, accommodation and tourism product is going to play a big role in convincing them to come, stay longer and of course, spend more.

The redevelopment of the CBD, establishment of our new city-centre hotel the Langlands alongside other accommodation plans in the pipeline, and the continuing growth of tourism product give travellers plenty of reasons to visit the south and be part of the journey towards the region’s rejuvenation.

We’ve seen significant investment into tourism across the region which is evident in the tourism products we now have on offer, including Curioscape, Bill Richardson Transport World, Motorcycle Mecca, the many agritourism ventures found across Southland and looking forward, the establishment of an international Dark Skies Sanctuary on Stewart Island/Rakiura.

It’s this development of commissionable product and ability to accommodate large numbers of visitors that will allow us to position Southland as a sought after destination to visit.

While the benefits of this increased travel will directly impact Invercargill Airport and our region, it also support the new destination management approach being adopted at a national level by Tourism New Zealand, and regionally, with this a main driver of the Southland Murihiku Destination Strategy which we’re looking forward to sharing soon.

Focusing on destination management will see us working alongside our neighbouring regions, encouraging inbound and outbound itineraries from Invercargill that help to disperse visitors all across the lower South Island.

It’s important to note that this does not mean taking business away from other areas but rather spreading the love so that we can all benefit, and most importantly so that the visitor receives the very best experience.

With three major airports in the lower South Island, and many smaller ones too, we’ve got so many opportunities to work together and develop unique and exciting itineraries for our visitors.

This collaborative approach is vitally important for the ongoing success of this flight service, and something I know from experience can contribute to long-lasting benefits.

Twenty years ago, Queenstown approached Air New Zealand regarding direct flights in and out of New Zealand’s adventure capital.

To support their argument Queenstown prepared itineraries showed the potential for visitors to also visit the likes of Milford Sound, Te Anau and Central Otago.

This told a story about what the flight service could offer the visitor, and the community and local stakeholders worked to make sure they had the activities, experiences and infrastructure in place to convince them to come.

These new flights could encourage people to fly into Invercargill spend time experiencing the tourism activities and southern fare on offer, then travel to Milford Sound on part of the Southern Scenic Route and fly out of Queenstown. And this is just one of the many different routes or options that could be available with Stewart Island, Dunedin and the Catlins all waiting to be explored.

This flight service will allow people to access what we think is one of the best places in the world, but will also show us as a gateway to some pretty wonderful, and iconic New Zealand destinations.

While tonight is about celebrating the establishment of this flight route, it’s important to recognise that this is just the start of the story.

These flights are a commercial trial.

For this to become a permanent fixture it requires:

  • Effective marketing
  • the ability of locals, businesses and those further afield getting on board with the travel opportunities associated with it
  • Making sure we have the infrastructure and activities in place to welcome people here

As Courtney mentioned earlier, between the ‘Find yourself speechless in Southland’ campaign and Grab a seat’s grabarandom video – Southland has been getting some great exposure and we’re looking forward to this effective marketing continuing thanks to the support of Air NZ.

As only the 11th day in operation of Great South, it’s wonderful to be here tonight celebrating such a significant regional achievement.

As Southland’s newly established regional development agency we’re looking forward to partnering you all to drive the region’s success.

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