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Editorial

Long-haul travel could put off some tourists return

July 25 2022 by David Gibbs

Long-haul travel could put off some tourists return

Having just returned from my first long-haul trip since Covid-19 hit, I can tell you the flying horror stories you’ve heard are absolutely true. If you’re one of the roughly 15% of locals planning to go abroad, be warned, because getting there and back are travel hell. You’ll need to be prepared to tap into your reserves of patience and kindness.

Flying internationally has changed for the foreseeable future. Every flight leaving NZ or Australia is completely chocker and tickets are extraordinarily expensive. It costs at least $2,500 for economy return to most destinations in the North Hemisphere.

But don’t expect the price to improve the experience. Covid has created more work for both airline staff and passengers. Each country has new entry requirements that need to be met. Airport staff have to check all these documents, placing extra strain on them and making the process exceedingly slow for passengers. Onboard, the crew are tasked with enforcing the mask mandate, bringing the politics into the whole equation. Flying for 24 hours with a mask on isn’t much fun for anyone. People are short tempered, and the airline staff are taking a pounding as a result.

And there are fewer of them. During the pandemic, airlines tried to save as much money as they could, while the bosses held out the begging bowl to governments. They encouraged early retirements and laid off employees that are proving difficult to replace. Once the negative test mandate was dropped, passenger counts sky rocketed, along with the risk of catching Covid for the crew and ground staff. Now, as sickness spreads among the workforce, airlines and airports around the world are short-staffed and overworked.

Our arrival in New York demonstrated this, with just ONE booth manned and no electronic entry system. Welcome to the United States - please wait in line for more than two-and-a-half hours (and we were relatively close to the front of the queue). It’s the same story across the Northern Hemisphere, with airports crammed, lines everywhere, angry passengers dealing with delayed or cancelled flights, missed connections, lost luggage, and airline staff trying to cope with it all.

So, what does this mean for Queenstown?

Well, the appetite for long-haul travel, especially after people have experienced what’s out there waiting for them, might take longer to return. But, while that means we might get a lot fewer US and European visitors, I suspect domestic tourism will remain strong and many Australians will choose to come here, rather than venture further. As the recent Aussie school holidays demonstrated, that will mean Queenstown is busy enough to help businesses as they recover from the economic hit of the past two years. All we need now are the staff to service them, so they don’t have to deal with queues, stressed workers and short-tempered tourists once they’re actually here.

David Gibbs
Queenstown Media Group

- David Gibbs