Direct passenger flights between New Zealand and Tasmania will resume for the first time in more than 20 years. Air New Zealand announced on Friday it would run two flights a week from Auckland to Hobart, on Thursdays and Sundays, once quarantine-free travel is available.
It will be the first time since 1996 that there has been a direct flight route between Tasmania and New Zealand.
The introduction of a third flight has also been flagged as demand increases.
Premier Peter Gutwein said it would provide a significant opportunity for both destinations.
He said Tasmania welcomed 25,000 a year from New Zealand before COVID-19 and that number was expected to increase with the direct flight option.
“Tasmania has some of the best tourism experiences in the world and I’m sure New Zealanders will be very keen to fly directly here, travel around the state and see what we have to offer,” Mr Gutwein said.
Terminal upgrades worth $20 million at the Hobart International Airport are nearly complete and will open in the next two weeks.
The Australian Border Force and Australian Federal Police will be stationed at the airport, on a fly-in, fly-out basis to allow the flights to happen.
Hobart Airport chief executive Norris Carter said the announcement was the culmination of years of hard work.
“It has long been the ambition of Hobart Airport and the broader Tasmanian community to see international flights resume,” Mr Carter said.
“For this project to advance so quickly in the midst of a pandemic and the closure of international borders makes this significant achievement even more profound.”
Mr Gutwein said the travel bubble could be in place “around Anzac Day”.
“If the date is Anzac Day … we can be ready along with the border services to receive the flights,” Mr Carter said.
“We actually have them [Border Force officers] here tonight for a flight from Vanuatu bringing harvesters so we’re already able to land an international flight but … for a more ongoing operation, we can be ready within about a month.
Tourism Industry Council Tasmania chief executive Luke Martin said he hoped there would be demand for the route to increase to a daily service.
“It’s a pretty exciting day and it’s been 20 years in the making,” Mr Martin said.
He said the New Zealand market was a “great opportunity” for Tasmania’s tourism sector.
“We’ve seen whether it was opening up Queensland with direct flights about 20 years ago, obviously more recently you’ve seen Adelaide and Perth and the successes of those services,” Mr Martin said.
“[There is] an almost direct jump in visitor numbers as soon as you bring on a direct flight.”