As the opportunity to explore our own country without the crowds looks to be a fixture of the near future, next on the agenda for a group of Southland business leaders is focusing on putting the region at the forefront.
The Air New Zealand Partnership is a collective group between Air New Zealand, several Southland organisations and business leaders, including the southern councils, Iwi, Invercargill Airport, the Southland Chamber of Commerce, ILT and Great South. After signing a memorandum of understanding in 2016, the group has worked on creating opportunities for the south through tourism and trade, which has resulted in the jets and direct Auckland flights being implemented.
Post-COVID, the team has been exploring promotional and business support opportunities to share the best of the south with the rest of New Zealand and enticing Southlanders to explore their own backyard.
Air New Zealand head of tourism and regional affairs Reuben Levermore said the airline was proud to be offering the direct Auckland connection from July 6 on its A320 jet aircraft, and additional capacity for flights to and from Invercargill over the school holidays and beyond.
“The partnership group played a key role in helping get the jet services up and running last year, by collaborating on how to make the most of this opportunity to connect to New Zealand’s largest domestic market,” he said.
“We’ve seen that when Southlanders come together with a unified vision, they make things happen whether in tourism, business travel or conferencing all of which help to make our services viable and successful.”
Southland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Sheree Carey said some businesses had resumed their corporate travel, which meant there were more people coming into the region and spending their dollar locally.
“Encouraging those in-person meetings not only make for building better partnerships, but there’s positive economic activity that comes out of it because you’ve got more people, spending and staying in Southland.”
“We’re of course mindful that the threat of COVID-19 is still very much present, but we can be confident in how well business has adapted to health and safety requirements.”
The Chamber and digital marketing agency Market South were in the midst of launching an initiative to encourage businesses and representatives to meet face-to-face.
It was hoped the small steps of meeting in person rather than online would be among the first steps towards creating positive flow-on economic activity in Southland.
Market South creative director Carla Forbes said many people had noticed a drop in activity, despite being in level 1, as business representatives were reluctant to travel.
“It’s especially evident in the hospitality and retail sectors, so if we can encourage people to travel while offering them assurances that it’s safe, the flow-on effects for the region will be significant.
“We’ve all got to work together to rebuild post-COVID and we’re very lucky to be in a position where we can make these kinds of decisions, given the pandemic is still raging off-shore.”
Members of the Air New Zealand Partnership in Southland: Invercargill Airport general manager Nigel Finnerty, Great South chief executive Graham Budd, Air New Zealand head of tourism and regional affairs Reuben Levermore, Great South GM tourism and events Bobbi Brown, Market South creative director Carla Forbes, Southland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Sheree Carey and ILT chief executive Chris Ramsay.