Hot Off The Press
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.’
Air New Zealand’s Air China alliance will allow the airline to grow its China business by 25%, according to Stephen Jones, chief strategy network and alliance, Air New Zealand. Speaking at Friday’s gala dinner celebrating the arrival of the inaugural Air China flight on Thursday evening, Jones said alliances have been the foundation for Air New Zealand’s growth.
‘China is our second largest inbound market and this alliance will allow us to grow out China business by 25%,’ he said. ‘New Zealand had 335,000 Chinese visitors last year, up from 230,000 the year previous – up 30% year on year.
‘With growth comes opportunity, and responsibility to manage the growth sustainably.’
Flight CA783 was greeted on Thursday evening by Paula Bennett, New Zealand Associate Tourism Minister, Len Brown Mayor of Auckland, Qu Guangzhou Charge d’ Affairs Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in New Zealand, Adrian Littlewood chief executive of Auckland Airport, Rui Jie Air China Australia and New Zealand general manager, and Stephen Jones Air New Zealand chief strategy networks and alliances officer.
Under the alliance, Air China operates a daily direct A330-200 service between Auckland and Beijing and Air New Zealand continues to operate daily B787-9 Dreamliner services between Auckland and Shanghai.
The alliance also allows Air New Zealand to tap into 11 codeshare destinations within China as well as offering Air China passengers access to Air New Zealand’s network including domestic New Zealand, Australia, the Pacific Islands and South America.
The growing number of business travellers who extend their trips for some rest and relaxation are providing opportunities for both corporate and leisure travel agents, according to Tracy Greer, regional manager Australasia for the Association of Corporate Travel Executives (ACTE).
Greer, who is in New Zealand now, says the trend known as bleisure also provides potential for suppliers, such as tour operators and cruise companies, who could be accessing these people in their down time.
‘It is certainly an increasing trend in the corporate travel word. Employers are more flexible these days. Especially if a traveller has business at the end of the week and employer is likely to say ‘stay there over the weekend if you like, as long as you are back at work on Monday’.
‘There is an opportunity for the leisure side of travel to think more about the business traveller. These people are often wondering what to do if they only have one or two days in a destination (after completing their work commitments).’
ACTE hosted a networking function at the refurbished Bellini Bar, Hilton Auckland last night and Greer says the New Zealand industry can expect to see and hear more from the association. It already has two New Zealanders on the Australasian regional council (Andrew Dale, APX; and Aileen London, Oracle) but only a handful of New Zealand based members, compared with 500 members in Australia.
‘We are focused on education aimed at promoting the corporate travel industry. We have supplier members such as travel management companies, airlines, GDS, and accommodation providers as well as buyer members from small to medium enterprises through to the large buyers such as telecommunication, IT, banks and financial companies, large retailers and industrial companies – really anyone with a dedicated travel programme.’