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Mt Hutt New Zealand Open for business

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Mt Hutt Open for business

The ski industry is gearing up for another good year as tourism leaders push the message that New Zealand is open for business.

Tourism Industry Association chief executive Tim Cossar said the Christchurch earthquake had put a sharper focus on the ski season which was a big part of the tourism industry in the South Island.

"It's vital that the likes of Mount Hutt... have a really good season because that will flow through into the rest of the New Zealand tourism sector," Cossar said.

The ski season gets underway in early June.

Mt Hutt is scheduled to open on June 11, 2011

Last year Ski Areas Association NZ members sold 1.4 million lift passes, its second highest sale.

Association executive director Miles Davidson said the industry was gearing up for a good year and marketing started in Australia last month.

"Indications so far suggest things are as normal in terms of interest in Australians coming to New Zealand this winter," Davidson said.

"I think because of what has happened [in Christchurch] and with what's happened in Australia I think they're [operators] probably a little bit hesitant but that hasn't stopped them gearing up for business as usual, for another good season."

Overseas ski season tourists came primarily from Australia, with about 80,000 visitors a year, he said.

According to the Ministry of Economic Development the average spend of an international traveller doing winter sports was $3100 last year - about 30 per cent more than the average international tourist.

An Australian ski season market with about 80,000 visitors each spending $3100 could be worth $248 million.

Christchurch is a gateway for a lot of skiers and snowboarders. Mt Hutt is just an hour away and offers the best skiing in the Australasia 1.

"In Canterbury we should get the new people and visitors to New Zealand as it business as usual."

James Coddington, chief executive of NZSki, which runs the Coronet Peak, Mt Hutt and Remarkables ski areas, said the industry had worked hard on the message New Zealand was open for business and had the product.

"We can assure that we've got a long season with the investment into snow making," Coddington said.

There were 135 days in the season, he said.

"To have that assurance and confidence in the Australian market is significant and people can book on the back of that confidence."

NZSki's marketing team had recently visited wholesalers, retailers and airlines in Australia.

"We're very positive actually after talking with those people and attending ski shows," Coddington said. There were 1.2 million active skiers in Australia. "We're really riding a wave of optimism within the industry based on the last four years of significant growth out of the Australian market.

"It's too early to really tell the impacts of that loyal Cantabrian market and whether they are still going to be skiing this year or not."

There was a significant market in Auckland for which travelling to Queenstown had not been affordable or accessible, Coddington said.

"Both of those boxes have been ticked this year with more affordable direct flights and more regular flights."

Air New Zealand group general manager for Australasia Bruce Parton said the airline worked closely with Tourism New Zealand and had a large ski season campaign running in Australia.

The airline had 2520 seats direct from Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne into Queenstown - a rise of 29 per cent on the previous year.

The strong Australian dollar would help, he said.

BIG SPENDERS

* Visiting skiers spend $3,100 each - 30 per cent more than other tourists

* An Australian ski season market could be worth about $248m

Australasia

Australasia is a region of Oceania: Australia, New Zealand, the island of New Guinea, and neighbouring islands in the Pacific Ocean (Island Melanesia, potentially including Wallacea). The term was coined by Charles de Brosses in Histoire des navigations aux terres australes (1756). He derived it from the Latin for "south of Asia" and differentiated the area from Polynesia (to the east) and the southeast Pacific (Magellanica). It is also distinct from Micronesia (to the northeast). Australasia sits on the Indo-Australian Plate, together with India.