Queenstown welcomes Aussie tourists for first time in 333 days

Queenstown put on a beautiful day to welcome the first international flight in almost a year and the timing couldn't be better for local businesses who have opened their arms to Australian tourists.

A jam-packed flight arrived from Sydney on Monday - the first to touch down in 333 days.

"Here for a holiday, booked it pre-COVID… and just tourism really, come to have a look," one Aussie said.

"The wine, good food… the scenery," another said.

Destination Queenstown chair Richard Thomas told Newshub it's good to have Aussies back.

"The Australian market is our biggest international market and they're very good for our winter season."

The best thing about them is they bring their Aussie dollars with them, Queenstown Airport CEO Glen Sowry said.

"The Australian travellers are so valuable to the Southern Lake region, they love to get out and ski, spend money, enjoy the wine and food of the region."

And local operators are ready and waiting for the influx of Aussies.

"We're super-excited, it's quite emotional as well, we've really missed them," Southern Discoveries's Jayne McDonald said.

"Just really looking forward to it to get the mix up in Queenstown, bring back the Aussies. Bring back everyone else," Perky's floating bar's Troy Thomas said.

In the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 300 businesses were forced to shut shop. No one was spared - even the biggest names in tourism took a dive while the smallest simply clung on for dear life.

"It has been really really tough, like nothing we've ever seen before," McDonald added.

But now, that is all behind them.

"I've been here skiing but I've never really done enough touristy stuff so I'm really looking forward to just being a tourist," one said.

On a day of good news, even better news came as Qantas announced today that 20 flights a week will fly into Queenstown all winter - the demand already higher than before the pandemic.