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Regions will be first to welcome Kiwi visitors as Ardern launches sales pitch


Queensland is in talks to restart direct flights from New Zealand to regional destinations as the state deals with dozens of COVID-19 cases.

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Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says the talks are aimed at fast-tracking cross-Tasman flights when the travel bubble between the two countries opens on April 19.

The priority will be direct flights from NZ to regional tourist destinations.

It’s understood Ms Palaszczuk is keen for flights to resume to places like Cairns, Townsville and Proserpine, the air hub for the Whitsundays.

“We’re negotiating with airlines to fast-track the return of direct flights from New Zealand to regional Queensland,” the premier said on Twitter on Wednesday morning.

“More flights means more business for tourism operators, so we’re working to get this done as soon as possible.”

The state government is expected to provide more details about the talks later on Wednesday.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will begin a billion-dollar sales pitch to Australians on Wednesday, hoping for a big flow of visitors once the trans-Tasman bubble opens.

On Tuesday, Ardern announced quarantine-free flights for Australians would be allowed from April 19.

Her government’s decision brings New Zealand into line with Australia’s border settings, and means people can flow freely between the two countries for the first time since the onset of COVID-19.

Ardern posted a video on Instagram on Tuesday night, inviting expats home and Australians to visit.

“If you are in Australia – you might be a Kiwi over there, or you may have whanau or friends here, or you may just wish to visit us – come on over!” she said cheerily.

“Come and see us. New Zealand is a beautiful country and one of the things we miss the most is our ability to share it with you.

“We’d love to see you.”

The decision was green-lit by government health officials and welcomed by opposition parties, scientific experts and business groups.

The industry which stands the most to gain is tourism, which minister Stuart Nash said contracted by 16 per cent in 2020.

Relieved Tourism Industry Aotearoa boss Chris Roberts said businesses “can now take bookings with confidence and scale up their staffing”.

“It also means marketing campaigns to the Aussies can go ahead,” he said.

Aussie tourists have always contributed the lion’s share of visitors to New Zealand.

More than 1.5 million Australians travelled to Aotearoa in 2019, the last year uninterrupted by COVID-19, spending a collective $NZ 2.74 billion ($A 2.5 billion), representing more than a quarter of NZ’s total international tourist take.

After receiving estimates the bubble could be worth up to $NZ2 billion ($A1.84 billion) this year, Ms Ardern will kick off her pitch to Australians on Wednesday with a round of breakfast TV interviews.

“The first thing that I will say is that we are safe, and we cannot underestimate how important it is in this COVID-19 world,” she said.

“Secondly, we’re fast approaching ski season. I know that’s something that Australians love to partake in and that’s rapidly coming upon us.

“Even if you’re not a skier, I cannot begin with a list of beautiful places that we have to visit.

“It is ultimately a change of scene that so many have been looking for … now you have the option, come and see us.”

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