'Several thousand' Australians book Queenstown getaways following trans-Tasman announcement - Air New Zealand boss Greg Foran

Several thousand Australians have already booked getaways to tourism hot-spot Queenstown following Tuesday's announcement of a trans-Tasman bubble start date, Air New Zealand chief executive Greg Foran says.

Foran appeared on The AM Show on Wednesday, the day after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced quarantine-free travel between New Zealand and Australia will commence from April 19.

He said the airline's booking website was inundated following the announcement, with Kiwis making bookings for Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne - all popular for New Zealand tourists.

In return, several thousand Australians have already booked getaways to New Zealand tourism hot-spot Queenstown, Foran said.

"We've seen about 100-times increase in bookings and actually yesterday, from the period from 4pm through to about 10pm, it was actually a record - an Air New Zealand record for the number of bookings that were made across the Tasman.

"Queenstown had a really significant uptake - so to [Mayor] Jim Boult and all of his team down there, who I know have been doing it tough, you've got some people heading your way."

When asked exactly how many bookings were made, Foran said he couldn't say.

"I can't share that number with you at this stage," he told host Duncan Garner. "I'm not going to share it with you… because that's market-sensitive information."

Despite the national carrier appearing to ramp up operations ahead of time, with Air NZ flights available ahead between Auckland and Sydney and Melbourne from April 19, Foran insisted the company knew no more about a start date than anyone else.

"We've actually been taking bookings all the way through because we've been probably seeing several hundred people wanting to go to Australia to either go home or reconnect with family, and being prepared to deal with MIQ [quarantine]. We didn't actually push the date for selling until 4pm yesterday because we didn't know ahead of that."

About a year since the idea of a trans-Tasman bubble was first floated, Foran's thrilled it's only days from getting underway.

"We're up and running again to not quite a third of our market but close to it, so planes are up and running. We've been working hard to get ourselves organised - we've brought back about 340 crew."

Foran said the airline would aim to have its flights 80 percent full. He said the cost of flights would be determined by that as well as competition.
"I know that we're going to be able to make this work and we've got off to a terrific start."

House of Travel's Brent Thomas said agents will be re-hired to deal with the influx of bookings following the announcement.

"We've gone from nearly 5000 people to 1500 so that's a lot of people that we've had to lay off - there are some of those people that will definitely be coming back once the volume starts to come back."

It's believed the bubble will bring a $1 billion boat to New Zealand's economy. Business New Zealand chief executive Kirk Hope said the arrival of visitors will make a huge difference.

"Our international visitors, even if only a proportion start to come across the border it makes a really big difference to those businesses," he told Newshub.

And there's a celebration in other New Zealand tourist centres hit hard by a lack of international visitors. Fox Glacier Guiding chief executive Rob Jewell was over the moon at the announcement.

"[We're] 100 percent delighted and really relieved, excited," he said. "We should have some of our Australian market coming back to us soon, which will be just great."

Meanwhile, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said some MIQ facilities will be kept on standby in case the bubble pops.

Officials will be checking all MIQ sites to ensure they're fit for purpose, he said.

"We do have a couple of smaller facilities that we've really used to accommodate low-risk travellers."

Hipkins said officials are setting their sights further now the framework is in place for travel to and from Australia.

"We are in discussions with the Cook Islands and Niue in particular who are very keen to have a safe travel zone with New Zealand, and the things that we've put in place to support the trans-Tasman safe travel zone will certainly help us."