Wine lovers will have just another excuse to visit New Zealand. The wine company Invivo is launching the world’s first “winery airline” which will start operating a route from the North Island of Auckland to Queenstown, in the South Island later this year. The Invivo Air journey will be inside a 34-seater Swedish-built Saab plane chartered by the co-founders Tim Lightbourne and Robin Cameron.
1. More than wine
However, the new and luxury concept is more than a sky tour savoring exquisite wine. While the duration of the flight is around two hours, the entire experience will last 24 hours, including a visit to the Invivo’s Central Otago, where the company grows its grapes, and ending up in grace with a staying at The Hilton Queenstown. “Obviously, there will be some complimentary wines served on board, as well as some non-alcoholic drinks,” Lightbourne told CNN, inviting all kinds of travellers.
While the debut flight is a trial, Lightbourne says the team is planning running regular flights on the Auckland to Queenstown route, and they hope to add new destinations in the future. The duo said that Although 50% of the seats on the debut flight will be available to purchase, seat prices are yet to be determined.
2. Celebrities on board
Celebrities like Sex and the City star Sarah Jessica Parker and British TV presenter Graham Norton are some of the various shareholders and collaborators that have partnered with Invivo. “Both Graham and Sarah Jessica are really keen to get to New Zealand,” said Lightbourne. “So they could potentially be one of the official guests on a flight in the future for sure.”.
3. Domestic tourism
Lightbourne and Cameron decided to launch Invivo Air in an attempt to commemorate the reopening of Auckland’s borders in December but also to promote domestic tourism in New Zealand. Besides offering a glamorous experience, the co-founders said they want to support those working in Auckland’s hospitality sector, which have suffered a huge impact during the four-month lockdown ordered by the government after a Covid-19 outbreak in the city.
“A lot of the restaurants have been shut in Auckland for all that time,” explained Lightbourne. “So it’s been pretty hard. We’d like to reward some of those hospitality staff with a flight down to Queenstown, which is one of our major tourism destinations.” Priority will be given to hospitality and tourism staff in Auckland, the co-founders said, as well as residents who have been unable to visit loved ones located in New Zealand’s South Island due to the border closures.
According to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Enterprise, all 31 of New Zealand’s regional tourism organisations saw domestic visitor spending increase in the year to October 2021. However, while domestic spend figures are encouraging, most regions are doing far worse when compared to pre-pandemic times, specially those which were heavily reliant upon international tourists.
4. Little Covid-19 cases
Since the beginning of the pandemic, New Zealand has kept very strict border restrictions and quarantine measures, which led the country to have a remarkable low rate of Covid-19 cases. Up until now, there has been around 15,000 infections in the country, a very small number compared to the rest of the world. While protecting the borders and keeping the virus away, many businesses relying on international tourism have greatly suffered.
“Everyone knows it’s for the greater good,” says Lightbourne. “But having said that, we’re really keen to get back to normal and open up the borders to international travel. It’s been nearly two years.” Invivo Air passengers are required to comply with all applicable rules and regulations, including showing a valid Covid-19 vaccine pass before boarding the flight.