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Q+A: Christopher Luxon interviewed by Corin Dann

‘We need to turn the place into Switzerland, not Cancun’ - AIR NZ CEO Christopher Luxon

Tourism

Air New Zealand CEO Christopher Luxon says New Zealand needs to become a premium destination and should charge tourists more.

‘We need to turn the place into Switzerland, not Cancun, and the way we do that is we actually create rich premium experiences that Chuck and Mary from Iowa on their once in a life-time trip to New Zealand actually are prepared to pay for because they’re getting stories being told around Maori culture, they’re getting stories and educated around flora and fauna, they’re getting experiences that they just can’t buy in the US and I don’t want us to be giving the place away we actually have to value it in the right way.’

Mr Luxon says as good as the growth has been in tourism, ‘we should absolutely charge more’.

He says we know that there’s about $9 billion dollars we can still add into the tourism industry. If we can get ourselves from mid-table in the developed countries - of the value of tourism divided by the number of people that work in it - to the top 10, that’s $9 billion.

And he says as an industry they support the tourist tax being introduced next year, ‘because we actually think we do need the infrastructure, and particularly in places that have small numbers of residents and high numbers of visitors – that mixed-use infrastructure.’

Air New Zealand CEO Christopher Luxon says the airline is keen to work with regional players. Hits back at criticism from Shane Jones

Christopher Luxon told Corin Dann that while the airline has vacated some routes he’s adamant that it doesn’t show a lack of commitment to the regions.

‘There are places where we have had to come out of where we’ve got a smaller airline and we have partnered with those airlines and are continuing to do so and we’ll continue to do so because they’ve got some focus and they’ve got a scale of just focussing on smaller planes which we don’t fly in order to get that right size for that market.’

Mr Luxon has confirmed the airline is committed to working with smaller carriers to help service the regions.

‘It’s about how would we do inter-liner baggage, and that requires just some IT systems, and those are the kinds of things we’re working on.

CORIN So you’re open to the idea of it?

CHRISTOPHER Oh, more than open. We’ve been talking with the CEOs of all of those airlines, thinking about how we can actually do that.’

When asked about criticism of the airline from Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones particularly over the decision to cut some regional services, Mr Luxon said, ‘what I’d say is I don’t think government and business having shots at each other is particularly helpful or constructive particularly to potential investors wanting to invest in New Zealand, and I’d argue over the last 4-6 months we’ve actually found a constructive way of realising working together on these issues.’

Business Advisory Council Chair
Business Advisory Council Chair Christopher Luxon is adamant that the council isn’t a PR exercise for a government under pressure over business confidence.

‘No, I disagree with that completely. I think the reality is that if you’re a leader of a large organisation, the prime minister, obviously, of the country, you do want a diverse set of views coming in at you and so that you can weigh those up. You may not agree with everything, but at least you actually want as much diversity of thought around that table as you’re making decisions.’

Christopher Luxon says what business wants from government is certainty and clarity.

When asked whether he could rule out entering politics and potentially standing for the National Party, Mr Luxon said, ‘I’m just very satisfied doing what I’m doing right now and there’s a lot more to do.’

Please find the full transcript attached and you can watch the interview here.

Q+A, 9:30pm Sundays on TVNZ 1 and one hour later on TVNZ 1 + 1.

Streamed live at www.tvnz.co.nz

Thanks to the support from NZ On Air.

Q+A is also on Facebook + Twitter + YouTube

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