Air New Zealand touches down in Vietnam

Air NZ and Government representatives on arrival in Ho Chi Minh City (Newshub.)
Air NZ and Government representatives on arrival in Ho Chi Minh City (Newshub.)

International travellers were stopped in their tracks as a haka rang out through Ho Chi Minh City's international airport to mark the arrival of Air New Zealand's first direct flight to Vietnam.

More than 200 passengers, mostly tourists, lapped up the traditional Maori welcome along with local Vietnamese media on Saturday night.

The direct link is expected to boost tourism education and business links between the countries.

"We have four universities active here but also it is trade, it is food -- we are doing a culinary event while we are here," said Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce. "It's all about the whole New Zealand branding and increasing the knowledge the Vietnamese have about New Zealanders."

Last year 16,000 Kiwis travelled to Vietnam, up 20 percent on the previous year. Over 9 million international visitors arrived in Vietnam in the last 12 months, making it one of the fastest-growing tourist destinations in southeast Asia.

"It's a 90-odd million population with an average age of 24... It's a fast-growing economy and there is a very good relationship between the two countries and this is going to cement that," Mr Joyce said.

Air New Zealand's non-stop service takes 11 hours from Auckland to Ho Chi Minh City.

The airline will fly three times a week to the popular tourist destination between June and October this year.