Tourism operators ready to cash in as first freedom flights from Australia touch down

The first flights of freedom from Australia have touched down in New Zealand without them needing to isolate on arrival.

Tourism operators are ready to cash in since it means the arrivals from Australia will boost the crippled tourism sector.

"Pre-COVID, the Australian market was our biggest international market. We're delighted to have them back because it's been a real shot in the arm," said Richard Thomas, Destination Queenstown chairperson.

A shot of adrenaline is exactly what's on offer for thrill-seekers.

"We've got special deals here and in Taupo and Auckland our other sites so people can sky jump, skywalk, do a jump over the river in Taupo or come here," said Henry van Asch, AJ Hackett Bungy co-founder.

With Australians now allowed in and other international visitors not too far away, tourism operators are hoping those who come to New Zealand dive headfirst back into the market.

There won't be the influx of visitors flying directly into the south just yet - the first international flight from Qantas into Queenstown is still over a month away.

"On the 23rd of May, Jetstar will be soon after that on or around the 3rd of June and Air New Zealand 23rd of June," said Glen Sowry, Queenstown Airport CEO.

Those dates land just as the ski season kicks off, with Australians making up half of the ski market.

"It's about half of our revenue, they book solidly in advance, they spend a lot of money in the hotels and restaurants and the bars downtown," said Paul Anderson, NZSki CEO.

Many restaurants and bars have had to close during the week and are in desperate need of our cashed-up cousins.

"We rely heavily on international tourism, predominately the Australians. They count for 60 percent of the Arrowtown business so the sooner they come back the better," said Nicky Buust, Arrowtown Promotion and Business Association manager.

Newly-arrived travellers from Australia are glad to be in New Zealand.

"I haven't seen my daughter in over a year. It's lovely," one person said.

"I saw Mount Cook in the distance on the plane and I actually started crying," another said.

The return of the tourists has begun, with more Australian gold on the horizon.