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Kiwi bubble tourists bypass SA for eastern states

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A push to attract Kiwi tourists to South Australia in the early days of the Trans-Tasman travel bubble has fallen flat, according to latest Australian Bureau of Statistics figures.

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The ABS figures released yesterday show that Australia had 36,190 short-term visitor arrivals for the month, 79 per cent of which were from New Zealand following of the opening of the travel bubble on April 19.

But SA recorded just 780 short-term visitor arrivals for the month. While this was a significant increase on the 100 visitors in May 2020, it is well below the national share and only a fraction of the 17,540 visitors in May 2019.

South Australia’s lack of international visitors for the month didn’t warrant a breakdown by country, according to the ABS.

But assuming 79 per cent (616) of these 780 visitors in May 2021 were from New Zealand – in line with the national average – then SA received just 2.2per cent of Australia’s Kiwi tourists for the month.

The State Government published a media release on May 5 welcoming the resumption of direct flights from New Zealand after a 14-month absence with an initial 3-4 Air New Zealand flights from Auckland per week.

The first passengers on May 5 were greeted with a Welcome to Country and some of the state’s most iconic brands and products including freshly shucked oysters from Experience Coffin Bay, Maggie Beer canapes, Bleasdale sparkling shiraz, Haighs chocolates and Jurlique skincare.

At the time, Premier, Steven Marshall urged Kiwis to book a trip to South Australia.

The South Australian Tourism Commission also launched a new ad targeting New Zealand tourists on May 3.

New Zealand was South Australia’s fourth-largest international inbound market, with a record 43,000 trips made by Kiwis to SA in 2019.

South Australian Tourism Commission chief executive Rodney Harrex said the ABS figures only reflected a visitor’s “intended state of stay” and did not take into account those international tourists who visited South Australia as a secondary component of a trip to another Australian state.

He said the SATC had been in discussions with Air New Zealand as recently as this week.

“It’s important for the visitor economy that regular direct flights with AirNZ are maintained, and as confidence in travel increases, we would love to see flights get back to the pre-COVID levels of 4-6 per week,” Harrex said.

“When the bubble opened back in May, we had always expected the majority of those on flights over the first few months would be the visiting family and friends market, as many people fly across the ditch to see loved ones.

“Once confidence returns, so will business and leisure travel. As time goes by and we head into warmer more peak periods, and confidence rises, we expect tourist numbers to lift into SA.

“The SATC is actively marketing into NZ and has seen growing interest from Kiwis in travel to our state – since the announcement of the trans-Tasman travel bubble, our southaustralia.com website has seen a 42 per cent increase in visits from New Zealanders.”

However, it appears the website visits have so far failed to lead to a significant increase in arrivals.

Of the 28,510 Kiwis who visited Australia in May, the vast majority headed to NSW (13,020), Queensland (8270)  and Victoria (4560).

Western Australia attracted 1550 NZ visitors in May while Tasmania (360) and the Northern Territory (240), like South Australia, attracted so few international visitors for the month that they weren’t broken down by country.

Tourism Industry Council of South Australia CEO Shaun De Bruyn said New Zealanders were a lucrative market as they tended to stay longer, disperse across the state and engage in different types of experiences typically not as appealing to local tourists, such as attractions and tours.

“We should be channelling this key international market now through effective marketing activations that position South Australia as a safe state that is home to many wonderfully unique visitor experiences,” he said.

“By achieving this market share growth, there is potential for big economic gains which will boost industry recovery and support local jobs.”

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