Dropping the departure tax, a common visa, trans-Tasman flights at more regional airports and better use of smartgate technology could boost tourist numbers from New Zealand to Australia by 200,000, a report says.
The four reforms were outlined in the ‘Bringing Our Neighbour Closer’ report from the Tourism and Transport Forum, launched in Sydney on Thursday.
TTF chairman Bruce Baird said these reforms would not only boost the number of New Zealand travelers heading to Australia, it would also make it easier for visitors from Asia to come to both countries in the one trip.
“Australia can look and feel more like a domestic destination, without any loss of sovereignty to either country,” Baird said.
“Arriving on a flight from New Zealand should be like stepping off a domestic flight, with technology and passenger profiling behind the scenes to ensure our borders remain secure.”
The report advocated a new visa that allowed travel to both Australia and New Zealand, similar to the
one that has been made available for those attending the 2015 cricket World Cup.
It said Australia needed to open up more regional destinations to New Zealand flights through less costly border processing and immigration services for airports such as Newcastle, Ballina-Byron, Coffs Harbour and Hamilton Island, among others.
Although New Zealand was Australia’s largest source of tourists, with 1.2 million visitors in 2013, the market has experienced flat growth in recent times.
The co-chairman of the Australia-New Zealand leadership forum Rod McGeoch said the political will for change was better than it was.
“Inside the Prime Minister’s department there are signals coming out now that we are going to do some of these things to improve the experience of travel between New Zealand and Australia,” McGeoch said.
“I am absolutely convinced that the sorts of initiatives that being proposed here are the sorts of things that will bring the countries closer together.”
The report called for the departure tax to be slashed to $25 for trans-Tasman trips. It is currently $55 for all international flights.
Moreover, authorities needed to make better use of technology to make check-in and arrival processes quicker, with the ultimate aim of making any journey across the Ditch take less than five hours.
The report, which was written with the support of Air New Zealand, showed Australia’s passenger movement charge (PMC) of $55 was higher than what was charged for similar journeys by Mexico ($A25), UK ($A24), Germany ($A11) and Austria ($A11). New Zealand has no departure tax.
“The savings to airline of any removal of the PMC could translate into a 13 per cent additional yield which could underwrite new route development, reduce fares or boost seat capacity on existing routes,” the report said.
Air New Zealand commercial manager of commercial strategy and alliances in Australia Michael Zorbas said the taxes and surcharges component on some sale tickets between Sydney and Auckland were sometimes higher than the airfare itself.
“The initiative to reduce the PMC to a more reflective level of the travel experience to and from New Zealand is welcome,” Zorbas said at the report’s launch.
Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development Mike Mrdak told an aviation conference recently the two countries were working together on making travel across the Tasman as seamless as possible.
However, a common border was unlikely due to immigration, customs and order issues, he said.