NEARLY half of Southland air travellers choose to use airports outside the region, a second, more comprehensive, air travel survey has found.
This finding is consistent with a previous, preliminary survey of air travel undertaken earlier this year by Venture Southland (VS) and Invercargill MP Sarah Dowie.
VS group manager, business and strategic projects Steve Canny said the second survey, conducted by Impact Consulting, had provided a more in-depth analysis of travel patterns through Invercargill Airport, identified factors influencing air travel decisions and changes which could increase travel volumes from Invercargill Airport.
“This latest survey will contribute to ensuring that the region gets the most out of what is an excellent facility both in terms of terminal and runway capacity,” he said.
“We need as much information as possible to advocate for increased capacity on existing flights and towards the development of itineraries and tourism products best matched to flight times.”
The second survey attracted 1124 responses from Southlanders who had taken flights for business or pleasure in the past two years.
Of the estimated 232,939 return flights taken by Southlanders during that time, the survey found 43% (100,553 return flights) of all Southland travellers departed and arrived through other airports as opposed to Invercargill Airport.
Queenstown Airport had experienced the biggest relative gain in market share, now accounting for 10% of Southland business air travel and 24% of Southland personal air travel.
Mr Canny said in most cases, the reasons respondents chose to use other airports included price, direct flights and better flight connections for both business and personal travel.
Suggestions provided by survey respondents to improve air travel services in Southland included offering cheaper airfares, airline competition, adjusting travel schedules and direct flights to Auckland and Australia.
Mr Canny said the survey findings would be used to ensure better flight services were available to people and to drive more traffic volume through Invercargill Airport, help form local visitor-related opportunities and create linkages with other tourist products.
An Air New Zealand spokeswoman said it was continuing to work closely with local stakeholders to explore ways to drive demand for services to and from Invercargill.
A partnership working group had been established with representatives from Air NZ, Southland Regional Development Strategy, Southland mayoral forum, Invercargill Licensing Trust, Southland Chamber of Commerce, VS and Invercargill Airport.
Southland Air New Zealand Partnership chairman Scott O’Donnell said as part of the relationship, Air NZ had signed a Memorandum of Understanding focused on working collaboratively on initiatives to stimulate demand, particularly around attracting additional domestic and international visitors to Southland.
“We have been working closely with Air NZ on exploring ways of ensuring Southland is more competitive when bidding to host events in the conferences and incentives market. Airline ticket price is only one part of this complex equation,” he said.
“The priority is to grow the demand into and out of Invercargill so Air NZ can have the confidence to boost additional capacity and flights on our routes.”