Hot Off The Press
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.’
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.
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.
Last nght’s Funds for Fiji event in Auckland illustrated just how much the trade in New Zealand gets behind and supports the nation’s tourism sector, says Tourism Fiji chairman Truman Bradley. He says tourism receipts in total increased by 11% in 2015 from F$1.4 billion to F$1.55b.
‘Tourism is the backbone of the Fijian economy and (visitors from) New Zealand increased in value by 16%.’ Bradley was at the event last night, held at Pullman Auckland.
He says that after the ‘devastating event’ of Cyclone Winston there is devastation in one aspect of Fiji and ‘bula as usual’ in another – the after including most of the resorts and other tourism plant. ‘The New Zealand Government and the New Zealand people have joined together to support the rebuild of Fiji.’
He says events like last night’s, which included entertainment, raffles and silent and live auctions, are important for the recovery. But he also emphasised the need for the trade to keep selling Fiji with confidence. ‘Fiji is booked solid right now because of support out of New Zealand and Australia. And that’s what we need.’
Preliminary figures from last night's fundraiser put the money raised at around $40,000.
An eight-strong professional conference organiser famil has been enjoying the sights of New Caledonia. The group arrived on Friday with Aircalin and stayed two nights at the newly refurbished Le Meridien Noumea. They are presently at the Sheraton Deva for another two nights. While in New Caledonia, the group has visited Duck Island, enjoyed a dinner at Noumea Baie des Citrons and went on a Segway tour. The journey north to Sheraton Deva transformed into an Amazing Race when the group also stopped at a market and supermarket for food for a perfect French picnic at Fort Teremba, explored an ANZAC cemetery and enjoyed a drink organised by Sheraton Deva at Turtle Bay. The famil will also take on a glass bottom boat tour, snorkeling and cooking class.
The USA’s National Parks werre a topic of conversation over breakfast today, with about 40 agents mixing with representatives from the Big Island of Hawaii at Rydges in Auckland. Ross Birch, from the Big Island Visitors Bureau says the breakfast is largely to thank the New Zealand trade for its part in ‘a huge double figure increase’ in visitation to the destination last year. ‘Last year we had a 24% increase out of Australasia and New Zealand played a big part in that. W had a really good year – the hotels are in great shape and all of the activity operators are doing really well.’
A key message in 2016 is that The Big Island of Hawaii is ‘at the forefront’ of the United Sates celebration of the 100th anniversary of its National Park System – giving agents extra opportunities to sell the destination. ‘It’s also the 100th anniversary of the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, one of the first 50 National Parks in the United States,’ says Birch. ‘Special tours are being organised throughout the year and it is a great opportunity to showcase everything the park has done over the last century.’
The Big Island has five of the state’s nine National Parks. ‘This is the year to get to them,’ says Birch. He adds that Hawaii’s national parks are particularly accessible for New Zealanders because of the Air New Zealand and Hawaiian Airlines services, plus the improved inter-island accessibility.
Fiji’s first mobile clinic dedicated to screening children for rheumatic heart disease (RHD) opened this month, thanks to AccorHotels and charity Cure Kids.
AccorHotels has raised more than $2 million for Cure Kids-led child health initiatives in Fiji over 10 years.
Most of these funds have been raised by AccorHotels Fiji, Australia and New Zealand staff, who have competed in the bi-annual AccorHotels Race to Survive for Cure Kids Fiji.
In the first four days of the clinic opening at Sofitel Fiji Resort & Spa on 11 January, more than 400 children from Fijian communities were screened for RHD as part of an ongoing programme assessing the feasibility of a RHD screening system.
David Coombes is Flight Centre (NZ) Ltd’s new managing director.
Coombes, who has been with the company for 15 years, previously spent almost three years in New Zealand between 2011 and 2013 as general manager product. He returns to the business today ready to take the pilot’s seat and will succeed Chris Greive, who announced his departure late last year.
‘Coombsie’, as he is affectionately known, started his career with Flight Centre Travel Group more than 15 years ago as a travel consultant in Brisbane, Australia. He’s since risen through the ranks to his most recent position as senior vice president product in the United States.
Coombes has led multiple teams to global recognition at the FCTG Global Gathering, achieved record business results in NZ and the USA and was the recipient of the FCNZ Directors Award for 2013/2014.
Greive will officially finish at the end of February 2016 after almost two years as managing director. Greive has been with FCTG for more than 30 years, having previously led the New Zealand business from 1990 to 2004. Although Greive officially steps down as managing director he will continue an active involvement with the company in an advisory capacity.
Fiji’s 2016 mega-famil is fully subscribed with about 50 more applicants than can be catered for – proving the ongoing trade interest in the destination, says Tourism Fiji’s NZ regional director Wayne Deed.
‘We had 120 applicants for 70 spots on the six itineraries and basically that happened in a week and a half from when we started advertising.’
Deed says the week long itineraries start on 27 February and on 5 March. They come together for an amazing race and beach party / prize giving in Denarau.
‘We really didn’t need to do a lot of advertising or persuading – we basically went out in the One Minute Memo and put out an electronic direct mail to our Matai database and had a little bit of editorial elsewhere.
‘This proves there is continuing interest in the new products and experiences we are showcasing on these itineraries.’
Deed says the itineraries cover adventure, the Mamanuca Islands, cruise, the Yasawa Islands, Coral Coast, and the north of Fiji.
Meantime the consumer and trade Wedding Show taking place at Shangri-La’s Fijian Resort on the Coral Coast, 19 and 20 March, is gaining momentum in the New Zealand market.
‘We will be taking a group of niche wedding agents up for that,’ says Deed. ‘There has also been interest from consumers and some New Zealand retailers are working on packages so their customer groups can attend the show.’