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Media Release from Destination Queenstown and Lake Wānaka Tourism

No support for Tarras airport from Southern Lakes regional tourism organisations 

Queenstown, New Zealand (1 September 2023) Destination Queenstown (DQ) and Lake Wānaka Tourism (LWT), the regional tourism organisations for Queenstown and Wānaka, do not believe the development of an airport in Tarras is aligned with the new regenerative tourism approach in the Southern Lakes. 

DQ and LWT share the concerns of the Queenstown and Wānaka communities, who are worried about the ‘over-tourism’ created from a third airport in the immediate region.

The development of an airport at Tarras will drive an increase in visitor numbers to the region on a scale never seen before, due to the huge capacity increase enabled by wide body jets, capable of flying directly from long haul markets.

This increase in visitor numbers is not aligned with the quality over quantity approach the Queenstown and Wānaka communities have endorsed via the region’s destination management plan.

The destination management plan, a partnership between Destination Queenstown, Lake Wānaka Tourism and Queenstown Lakes District Council, is working toward managing visitor impacts in a way that benefits the people and community, which is inconsistent with enabling wide body jet services directly into the region.

The goal of regenerative tourism by 2030 reflects feedback from communities around the region and is centred around ensuring we are thriving not just economically but also socially, culturally and environmentally. Part of the strategy is encouraging value over volume from our visitors, targeting high contributing visitors and shaping the demand for Queenstown and Wānaka - being clear about what we stand for as a community to attract visitors whose values align with our own.

Currently, the visitor infrastructure required to meet the needs of the numbers projected for a new airport does not exist in the immediate Central Otago region. An increase in numbers on that scale would put more pressure on the already stretched visitor infrastructure in Queenstown and Wānaka.

QLDC's Quality of Life research shows that Queenstown and Wānaka residents do not support significant growth in visitor numbers. In addition, DQ and LWT's Views on Tourism research indicates that sentiment toward tourism is already at risk, with approval ratings below the New Zealand average rating.  The Views on Tourism research shows that residents would like to see a focus on reducing the environmental impact of visitors through encouraging shifts in visitor behaviours and reducing carbon footprint and waste produced by visitors and improving infrastructure.
DQ and LWT support Queenstown Airport in its current location and working within the current capacity levels. It is a community asset and facility that the Southern Lakes can be proud of, and one which the community is the majority shareholder of. Queenstown Airport revenues benefit the community - the ownership model of the airport ensures revenues from the airport ultimately come back to the community. 

Under the Tarras proposal, the Southern Lakes region would bear the burden of increased pressures on its infrastructure without any of the associated economic benefits from airport ownership – the profits would go out of region.

Queenstown Airport enables sufficient connectivity to the world; it underpins our economic development ambitions and enables us to welcome visitors.

DQ and LWT reject claims that not servicing any potential increased demand for the Southern Lakes region will lead to congestion and inefficient travel patterns. Adjusting visitor volume and visitor origin are two levers of change that can support decarbonisation and regenerative tourism. 

The demand for travel to the Southern Lakes region around the world is large. If we enable more capacity, more visitors will come. 


For more information contact:

Sarah O’Donnell
Marketing & Communications Director 
Destination Queenstown
M: 027 225 5206

Gizelle Regan
Marketing & Communications Manager
Lake Wānaka Tourism
M: 027 249 4808

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Our address is 50 Stanley Street, Level 1, Queenstown, 9300, New Zealand
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