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Time is right for South America

Friday, 27 May 2016 11:35

They braved the Auckland weather last week for the final of World Journeys Sooo South America NZ roadshow. The contingent of exhibitors, many making the longer journey from their respective homes in South America, had spent the week meeting with agents in Tauranga, Napier and Christchurch before Auckland’s wrap up evening. Exhibitor, Bruno Teixeira from Blumar Brazil says they were impressed with the numbers at each even – full house every night – and about the level of interest there is in the destination. ‘The agents want to know everything. They ask questions and in Napier many brought their clients along, which was great as these people are serious about visiting. With the additional flights and South America receiving so much exposure in the press, the time was right for us to all be here.’

It's official. LAN and TAM are LATAM

Friday, 06 May 2016 12:47

A new airline was unveiled in Sydney on 3 May. The Oceania launch of LAN and TAM's consolidated global LATAM brand revealed new livery, logo, signage, counter design, website and uniforms that will be progressively rolled out over the next three years.

‘More than 50 aircraft are expected to be rebranded before the end of the year,' Patricio Aylwin, managing director Asia Pacific, LATAM Airlines Group told guests at the event. 'We have an ambitious dream: We want to be between the three best airlines in the world. With an additional value of being the first Latin-American one.'

LATAM's new inflight magazine, Vamos, is already in seat backs and a new South America wine list will be introduced.

Kiwis might see the new uniform on the Sydney-Auckland-Santiago route this year, but crew are already giving it positive nods, not only for the indigo and coral tones, but the style. ‘We asked a focus group of 100 LATAM employees for their suggestions and feedback, with the end design incorporating their input,’ added Aylwin.

'When we revealed the brand to the world in August 2015, 50,000 employees became part of one amalgamated family,’ said Marcela Diaz LATAM Airlines Group marketing manager Asia Pacific. Speaking at the event, Diaz said the new logo symbolised the entire region. ‘South America never stops moving and we wanted this to be identified in the new look. The name LATAM identifies our origin; two airlines crossing paths.'


Our airport is officially safe: Vanuatu assures the trade

Friday, 29 April 2016 14:59

By Aleisha Moore in Vanuatu

Bauerfield Airport’s runway has officially been declared safe following the completion of numerous short-term repairs late April.

The announcement follows controversy surrounding Air New Zealand’s true intentions for pulling its services from the destination after a recent request by the airline to fly a charter flight full of Ni-Vanuatu seasonal workers into Port Vila prior to the completion of repairs. Jason Rakau, chief executive officer of Airports Vanuatu Limited (AVL), says he doesn’t wish to speculate on Air New Zealand’s movements but he can assure the industry the runway is now up to scratch. ‘It was about time for it to get done and I think this has been known for a while now. Moving forward we hope that what we have done is good enough and I think that we’ve effectively addressed all of the safety concerns these
airlines have.’

The work was done by New Zealand contractor Fulton Hogan, and included service enrichment spray treatment (SEST) application to stop the unraveling of aggregates or rocks from the runway; the milling out and patching over of ruts or dents in the runway; and the application of crack sealing to deal with ageing concrete. Rakau says now that the work is complete and engineers have signed off on it, AVL is inviting airlines to inspect it themselves to ensure their concerns have been addressed. ‘I have met with Virgin Australia and they’ve already done their inspection so we’re just waiting for them to provide us with a report about that. Informally from Virgin we’re hearing we’ve addressed their areas of concern, although an official announcement from them hasn’t been released yet, but we’re expecting that they should be flying back here sometime later in May.’

Air New Zealand is also currently performing inspections.

Following on from the short-term repairs, Rakau says the next step is a more permanent fix with a full overlay of the runway. ‘We’re getting a very strong commitment from the government that this needs to be done so that we can get it sorted once and for all and extend the runway’s life for probably another 10 to 15 years or so. The current works are short-term repair works that should last one to two years, but major works are still in the pipeline and we’re actually in design stages at the moment but an official announcement regarding that should be released by the government some time soon.’

Rakau says that for the time being AVL has made sure that it has acquired the required equipment needed to continue maintenance and monitoring all the concerned areas. ‘Any new cracks for example that arise, we own the machine ourselves and we know how to operate it to ensure that we close all those cracks down, so we’ll have a very vigorous maintenance programme in place to make sure that daily inspections happen and we’re addressing all the areas of concern until the major works get done.’

Trade to help build consumer confidence

Air Vanuatu and Vanuatu Tourism Office hosted twelve travel agents from around New Zealand to the Pacific destination late April in an effort to boost consumer confidence in the New Zealand market. The famil was the first major retail consumer activity since Air New Zealand and Virgin Airways pulled out of the destination earlier this year.

Jonas George, Air Vanuatu, says the famil was an opportunity to give reassurance as well as showcase the destination. ‘The main aim of this famil is bringing the agents over, getting them a firsthand look at the runway to show that the emergency work has been done now, and just to reassure them that it’s safe to fly into Vanuatu at the moment. I think the biggest job for us is getting that assurance into the New Zealand mind frame that they can be comfortable enough and be assured that it is safe to fly into Vanuatu. And it doesn’t matter if they fly with Air Vanuatu or Air New Zealand as long as they have that mentality of safety in mind so that they can make that choice to come back to Vanuatu.’

George is urging the trade to get behind Vanuatu as a destination that relies heavily on tourism. 'Vanuatu is pretty much dependent on tourism, it’s a big money earner for the country as well as offering employment.'

Allan Kalfabun, Vanuatu Tourism Office, says regaining consumer trust is the biggest priority for the destination right now. ‘It’s obviously been a very challenging time for us the last 12 months in terms of Cyclone Pam and also the runway status that made Air New Zealand pull their services followed by Virgin Airways, but it is getting better. Now it’s all about getting that consumer confidence back, obviously we cant compete with Air New Zealand, it’s such a strong brand, so we’ve just got to look at avenues that we can pick pocket and try and convert numbers.’

Kalfabun says the destination is still limited in terms of its inventory following Cyclone Pam, but is excited at the prospect of two major resorts coming back online shortly. ‘Holiday Inn is opening 1 June and Iririki Island Resort will be up and running 6 May, and that roughly equates to 20% of our inventory on Efate so we can’t wait for them to be open again.’

Vanuatu Tourism Office just last week launched a trade website in New Zealand dedicated solely to the New Zealand market including New Zealand prices, specials, market information, self famil programmes, and the $50 trade airfare working with Air Vanuatu.

Re-opening to reveal Iririki’s ugraded look

The ‘new’ Iririki Island Resort & Spa, Vanuatu will hold a grand re-opening event on Friday 6 May.  The resort has had over $20 million dollars spent on its facilities, buildings and gardens.

New Zealand’s representative for Iririki Island Resort & Spa, Gaye Wood of Regency Tourism Marketing visited the resort recently and says Iririki’s waterfront and garden farés, villas and apartments have all been renovated, and stocked with new furnishing and linens.  ‘New room types have been included to enhance it’s current range, offering new options for couples and families.’

'The new Iririki Spa has been built at the highest point on the island to offer breathtaking harbour views and  an extensive menu of luxurious treatments, just right for a spot of pampering. Dedicated massage rooms provide many options; relaxation, deep tissue, Swedish, Hot Stone or rejuvenating foot massages,' says Wood.

The Jewel Casino is within the existing Watermark Restaurant, and will provide hospitality and gaming services including four main gaming floor tables, two VIP private area tables and 20 slot machines. Complementing these will be a jazz / blues adult lounge, VIP Lounge, and karaoke / sports lounge.  

The casino will include blackjack tables actually in the shallow beach water and a double ended American Roulette.

The resort has converted to solar power, upgraded IT Systems, with wifi access across most of the island and improved transport with a new ferry and island buggies.

Iririki is offering a range of re-opening specials in its waterfront and garden farés with information available via your preferred wholesalers or direct with the resort on email .

Ingraining new Malaysia service into minds of Kiwi travel trade

Thursday, 28 April 2016 09:30

By Lisa Bradley in Kota Kinabalu

The Air Asia X flight connecting Auckland to Queensland and Kuala Lumpur is up and running, but work is ongoing to ensure the service is ingrained in the hearts and minds of the industry and travelling Kiwis.

Tourism Malaysia and the airline are this week ran a famil in early April for eight wholesalers, agents and media so they not only experience the low-cost flight option, but get a feel for the country as a destination – not just a transit point.

‘It is important the industry knows it has other options than direct flights with Malaysia Airlines and Singapore Airlines, which codeshares with Air NZ,’ says Tourism Malaysia’s Auckland director Zalina Ahmed.

That knowledge will hopefully translate into increased New Zealand visitor numbers, Ahmed adds.

Kiwi passport holders visiting Malaysia numbered about 66,000 in 2010. That number rose to 81,387 in 2011 when AirAsia X joined the market, and went up again to 86,726 the following year. Last year’s statistics show numbers are back down to around 66,000.

‘We hope to get those figures back up there. When AirAsia X withdrew, numbers definitely dropped,’ she says.

Malaysia’s High Commissioner to New Zealand Dato Lim Kim Eng is travelling with the famil group, which is spending a week in Saba and Kuala Lumpur. She comments that AirAsia X’s arrival into the market is important because it improves accessibility and availability.

‘My first choice, and for many business people, would have been about Malaysian Airlines, but we know this service is all about the connection. This gives us another option.’

AirAsia is also connected, travelling to around 18 countries daily. However, the airline visibly promotes its domestic service around Malaysia.

This is in line with Tourism Malaysia, which wants to encourage Kiwis using Kuala Lumpur as a connection hub to Europe to stay for at least three days. It is presently promoting five areas: Saba as an adventure island; Panang (food, heritage and culture); Langkawi (beaches); Sarawak for orangatans and Kuala Lumpur (shopping).

It’s certainly getting the interest of Kiwis such as STA’s product manager, Sarah Bedford, who is in Sabah with the famil. ‘I’ve only been here a couple of days, but on the face of it, this is something Kiwis would be interested in adding to their list of places to see.’

Famil goers fly high

From the depths of the ocean to soaring skyscrapers, Kiwis on the Tourism Malaysia/AirAsia X famil experienced one extreme to the other when they headed straight to the state of Sabah, Borneo were they experienced local markets and, at the Mari Mari Cultural Village, learnt how to shoot poison darts.

A Sabah highlight for the group was a 250-metre-long zipline between Gaya and Sapi islands in Tunku Abdul Raham Park, Kota Kinabalu. It was there the group also donned helmets for a ‘sea walk’ among fish at Borneo Reef World.

The famil returned to Kuala Lumpur yesterday for an action-packed day, taking in a tour of the Botanical Gardens, 421-metre-high Kuala Lumpur Tower and a musical called MUD: Our Story of Kuala Lumpur.

They also took enjoyed a spectacular view of iconic Petronas Towers at the Fuego Bar and Restaurant, situated on the 23rd floor of the three-towered Troika building.

Group participants agreed that food is a major part of the Malaysian experience, and while in Kuala Lumpur they enjoyed a cooking lesson from celebrity chef, the gregarious Ismail Asmad, at his renowned Rabung restaurant.

Short haul concerned as cheap fares cause spike in US bookings

Thursday, 28 April 2016 09:16

Tourism offices in short-haul destinations are keeping a close watch on sharp fares to the USA, saying they are likely to have at least a short-term impact.

However, they are also emphasising that airfares and packages to their own destinations are as competitive as they have ever been.

Jacquie Carson, Vanuatu Tourism Office New Zealand representative, says she is sure the North American fares will have some impact on the short-haul market.

‘These prices will definitely make people think about doing that ‘holiday of a lifetime’ now.

‘However, the prices for short-haul holidays are also pretty amazing at present with some fabulous holiday packages currently in the market with a long-travel period – some through to February 2017.’

Wayne Deed, NZ regional director with Tourism Fiji, says he is ‘naturally concerned’,

‘However, the travel period for the cheapest fares is from 15 October to 15 December onwards, which is not our busiest season for arrivals. That said, it’s obviously generating a lot of interest for the USA and at that pricing it’s definitely in our competitive set of destinations.’

Sally Holyer, international director New Zealand with Tourism and Events Queensland, says the market is probably the most competitive she can remember. But she says Queensland is part of that competitive mix – especially with the entry of AirAsia X and $99 fares between Auckland and Gold Coast.

‘That’s together with all the existing services and competitive fares. The New Zealand dollar is still relatively strong against the Australian and we are still growing out of New Zealand.’

Holyer points out visitor numbers, length of stay and spend out of New Zealand have all shown recent increases.

Meanwhile, Jenny Aitken, country manager New Zealand with Tourism Australia, adds the destination is always working to provide new reasons and value propositions to New Zealand travellers. ‘Competitive situations always exist but don’t change our awareness of the needs and desires of the market here. We certainly don’t take our current volume of 1.3 million visitors for granted.’

Cheap fares, exchange rates cause spike in US bookings

Short life fares, sharper pricing in general and the increased market activity around North American services is leading to spikes in sales and ongoing strong activity – with wholesalers reporting double digit growth to the destination.

House of Travel’s commercial director Brent Thomas says HOT’s air sales yesterday were 40% higher than usual. ‘We’re attributing a significant amount to the release of such strong pricing from American Airlines,’ he says.

‘The intense market reaction to AA’s $799 fares shows just how aggressive their pricing is. While we understand that the $799 is an introductory price, we’re interested to see how such competitive pricing will affect pricing to other Pacific rim destinations, given the perception it may raise in consumers’ minds when planning their holidays.’

Thomas says the New Zealand dollar is increasing even further against the American dollar, rising 4% in the last two days. ‘We’re anticipating this and the extremely competitive airfare ricing will fuel demand for travel to America and Canada.’

Sean Berenson, Flight Centre general manager product, says ‘ever-popular’ USA route has certainly seen a lot of movement in the last six months, with the new carriers entering the market and the marked decrease in pricing.

‘This has helped to drive an increase in interest for travel stateside – already this year Flight Centre has seen almost 20% growth in bookings to North America.

‘The accessibility and affordability has seen a shift in the type of trips Kiwis are doing to the States, with fare prices in line with travel to Asia its now an even more viable option for family holidays and Air New Zealand’s route into Houston has been a popular route for our Cruiseabout customers to access the Caribbean.

‘This shift in travel behaviour has seen a real increase in earning potential with land add-ons and packages, Kiwis are wanting to get out and see more of what the States has to offer.’

The water debate: We must 'up our game' on 100% Pure

Thursday, 28 April 2016 08:56

New Zealand must up its game to deliver the 100% Pure promise, as safety and risk have become paramount considerations for potential travellers.

Speaking at the Convene expo in Auckland in April Wayne Harris, GO Conference and Incentive general manager, explained how safety, in particular safety of our water, was inextricably linked with the 100% Pure promise.

Despite the ‘official’ stand that the branding refers to a 100% Pure New Zealand ‘experience’, Harris says that philosophically our international visitors expect more.

‘It’s absolutely critical that peoples’ expectations of New Zealand are fulfilled. It’s a baseline expectation with the 100% Pure brand that they will encounter just that. It’s the pure, clean, fresh and safe promise - and that is fundamentally about water. We do well with our food, our cities, our landscapes, we just have to make it complete.

‘It’s about recognizing the need for our water to be just as good as everything else. We’re talking rubbish washing in the surf onto our beaches, nitrates in the water in our lakes, effluents entering our streams. The government’s current bottom-line standard, for fresh water to simply be good enough to wade in, doesn’t sit comfortably with New Zealanders, nor does it with our international visitors.’

New Zealand was potentially on the cusp of a big influx of international visitors, said Harris. ‘There is an enormous number of baby boomers around the world generating a huge amount of equity looking at where in the world they can go that is safe. Safety is the number one priority when people consider travel.’

Harris notes that when his company plans conferences and incentives events for New Zealanders going off shore, the absolute basic requirement is safety. ‘They are looking at safety in the food, in the water, safety from terrorism and that there’s no civil war. Exactly those same considerations are being made by everyone considering travel to New Zealand.’

While 100% Pure brand has been effective internationally, Harris says New Zealand must also ensure it is a legitimate promise. ‘We need to be safe and this includes everything; the hotels people stay in, the food they eat, the rivers they swim in, it’s absolutely critical everything we offer is a safe experience.’

Harris’s comments add to industry calls for fresh water improvement. In March, the Tourism Export Council supported the Choose Clean Water Coalition as it presented a petition to Parliament, calling for better freshwater standards.

The petition came as water from rivers and lakes around New Zealand, was collected in gourds, kete and simple glass bottles and delivered to parliamentarians yesterday alongside a petition for change.

Speaking as the petition signed by 13,000 people was presented to Parliament, Tourism Export Council (TEC) chief executive Lesley Immink says the commitment of young people involved in the Chose Clean Water campaign made her proud to be a New Zealander, and proud to be part of the tourism industry.

‘We need all of us to now come to the party and support this initiative going forward, particularly when we get to select committee and policy stages. We acknowledge it’s not going to happen overnight. However, if we agree to aspire to make it happen, it will.’

TEC has been supporting the Choose Clean Water Coalition, a group of young environmentalists travelling through New Zealand to raise awareness about the deteriorating state of the country’s waterways, and gathering signatures for a petition asking Parliament to set a ‘swimmable (primary contact’ as the minimum standard for freshwater in lakes, rivers, streams, groundwater, wetlands and estuaries.

At the ceremony, Immink says TEC got involved after a call from ecologist Dr Mike Joy to address our ‘clean green’ marketing image.

‘We know a significant motivation for visitors choosing destination New Zealand is our clean and green image and we want to ensure that reputation lasts for generations to come. We believe water quality to be the single greatest challenge to maintaining New Zealand’s environmental promise.

‘It is time for the government and Ministers for Environment and Tourism to recognise the value clean water has for the country and New Zealanders. We are pleased to see the opposition parties represented here today and look forward to continuing our discussions with the government.’

NZ direct to Manila

Wednesday, 06 April 2016 11:43

Air New Zealand will launch direct flights to Manila in the Philippines from December. The new year round service will operate three times a week using Boeing 767-300 aircraft with a flight time of around 10 and a half hours in each direction.

Air New Zealand chief executive officer Christopher Luxon says the airline expects the service to be popular at both ends of the route. ‘The Filipino population in New Zealand has more than tripled since 2001 and is now the third largest Asian ethnic group, with around 40,000 Filipinos resident in New Zealand. The number of visitors from the Philippines is also continuing to grow rapidly, up more than 20% in the past year alone so we’re anticipating that demand for this service will be steady in both directions.

‘As the only non-stop service between New Zealand and the Philippines, our flight will be quicker and more convenient for travellers than the fastest current option which flies indirect, potentially saving up to two and a half hours each way,’ says Luxon.

American Airlines - $799 AKL – LAX return (sale ends Friday 1 April)

Thursday, 31 March 2016 10:49

American Airlines is giving the market a quick shake ahead of its entry into New Zealand on 25 June, announcing a sale that starts now (4pm Wednesday, 30 March 30 and ends midnight, Friday, 1 April.

The NZ$799 Auckland to Los Angeles return fare was announced by American Airlines vice president Erwan Perhirin this afternoon. (Additional prices apply from outside Auckland in New Zealand and beyond LA in the United States).

The ex AKL travel period is 15 October to 15 December 2016. The fare is return economy per person valid via QF/AA direct services only. There is an AKL/WLG/CHC – LAX one way fare also available at $499 and the same travel periods apply. From WLG and CHC the return fare is $899 return; ex WLG travel period from 17 October to 15 December 2016, ex CHC from 15 October to 30 November 2016.

The announcement came as Perhirin and Qantas senior vice president Stephen Thompson discussed American’s new service with media at a lunch at Seafarers in Auckland. Both were gung-ho about the flights and say that the QF – AA partnership is the recipe for long-term viability on the route.

Perhirin also had news for the corporate market, emphasising that the B787-7 service has wifi and will include 28 lie-flat business class seats with a walk-up bar in the premium cabin. ‘We’re adding a lot of choice to the market,’ says Perhirin.

From its hubs in the United States, American Airlines offers connections to nearly 350 cities in more than 50 countries worldwide, with about 6700 daily flights. American now offers up to 13 daily flights from the Asia Pacific region to the United States. 

AirAsia X lands in AKL with commitment to trade

Thursday, 24 March 2016 08:51

Budget airline AirAsia X made its official daily entry into New Zealand yesterday with a promise to form a solid relationship with those at the coalface of the travel trade.

Airline chief executive officer Benyamin Ismail, speaking at a function at Auckland Airport after the inaugural flight, says the company was looking to further bolster ties with New Zealand travel agents. ‘We are a FIT organisation, but we also rely on agents. They will be the winner for us and so we want to be there by assisting them with attractive fares.’

Ismail says the airline opened up around 120 routes for outbound travel through Asia, giving agents a lot more choice for clients using Malaysia as a travel hub – a point hammered home by the airline’s chairman Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz.

Ismail and the chairman also agreed the airline would be looking to operating services from Christchurch and Wellington, but that would be down the track. ‘By nature, it takes about a year for a route to settle in. So the focus will be on this route for now,’ says Aziz.

Air Asia X will connect Kuala Lumpur to Auckland via the Gold Coast. The initial flight had a 95 percent load factor, and the aircraft was welcomed to the airport with a water salute and traditional Powhiri ceremony.

Minister for communications Amy Adams, chief executive Auckland International Airport Adrian Littlewood, and HE Dato’ Lim Kim Eng, High Commissioner of Malaysia to New Zealand attended the event.