An ACT Government delegation including Chief Minister Andrew Barr will pop across the ditch to NZ, visiting Wellington and Auckland over two-and-a-half days this week.
Priorities of the visit include re-establishing aviation routes between Canberra and New Zealand and a discussion with the Mayor of Wellington on the upcoming fifth anniversary of Canberra’s Sister City Agreement with Wellington.
Director of Screen Canberra Monica Penders will also join the delegation to network with her NZ industry contemporaries and promote Canberra’s screen industry.
The cost of the Chief Minister’s delegation is approximately $11,500 with all costs to be met from the existing ACT Executive budget allocation.
Before COVID-19 hit, the ACT Government had been working to re-establish a direct route between Canberra and NZ.
Quarantine-free travel between the two Pacific nations resumed in April.
The delegation will meet with aviation and tourism stakeholders including Air New Zealand and Auckland Airport with the aim to establish new connections between Canberra and Auckland/Wellington.
Mr Barr said last week that now is a rare opportunity to secure air routes; in his 15 years as Tourism Minister, he’s historically faced a lack of aircraft availability.
“In order to get a new flight into Canberra, we’ve generally had to convince airlines to stop flying somewhere else,” he said.
“For the first time since I’ve been Tourism Minister – we’re talking 15 years now – there’s an abundance of aircraft, and the airlines are looking for good places to fly.”
The ACT has never enjoyed a better domestic aviation network then right now, with direct flights currently operating to every capital city, including Darwin and Hobart, and new routes to regional centres like the Sunshine Coast, Cairns and Port Macquarie having come online as domestic travel has re-established post-COVID.
Mr Barr said Canberra’s tourism sector had recovered well from COVID-19, with hotels now 73% full, well above the national average (61%); last April, they were only 14% occupied.
Dr Naomi Dale, CEO of the Canberra Region Tourism Industry Council, said many tourism properties had seen “a really terrific improvement” in visitor numbers.
Mr Barr said the combination of cheap, direct flights and more visitors “augured well for the coming financial year for the Canberra tourism industry”.
The ACT Government intends to restore ACT tourist revenue to $2.5 billion by the middle of next year and grow it to $3.5 billion by 2030.