Thursday, April 18, 2024

Government reopens New Zealand for tourism

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Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said today that we’re ready to welcome the world back. Photo CNN.

The Government is bringing forward the date for opening the border to tourists in time for the Australian school holidays, in a move that will help accelerate the economic recovery from Covid-19, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced today.

From 11.59pm Tuesday April 12, Australians will be able to travel to New Zealand isolation-free, and then two-and-a-half weeks later from 11.59 Sunday May 1, vaccinated travellers from visa-waiver countries such as the large tourist markets of the UK, US, Japan, Germany, Korea and Singapore, and those with valid visitor visas, will be able to arrive.

“Closing our border was one of the first actions we took to stop Covid-19 two years ago. It did the job we needed. But now that we’re highly vaccinated and predicted to be off our Omicron peak, it’s now safe to open up,” Ardern said.

“Reopening in time for the upcoming Australian school holidays will help spur our economic recovery in the short term and is good news for the winter ski season.

“Trans-Tasman travellers have historically made up 40 per cent of our international arrivals, with around 1.5 million Australians visiting each year.

“While we know it will take some time to see tourism scale up again, today’s announcement will be a welcome boost for our tourism operators who have done it harder than many over the last two years.

“In a world still battling Covid-19, travellers will be discerning about where they go in the short term. Our strong health response including the lowest death rate in the OECD over the past two years and our high rates of vaccination, alongside our reputation as a beautiful place to visit, will be an asset in this market.

“I am proud that New Zealand is a country which is able to provide a safe place for tourists to return to due to our strong health response to Covid-19.

“We can see from our record export prices for our goods that New Zealand is in demand internationally at the moment. A big focus of the rest of this year will be encouraging the world to buy our goods and to visit.

“During my international engagements throughout this year, I will be helping to lead the charge to accelerate growth in our top export sectors – primary industries and tourism – by encouraging people to buy New Zealand made, and to come and enjoy our hospitality.

“An earlier reopening for tourism, and the air travel that brings, also increases capacity for our exports, helping to lower freight rates and the flow-on costs of goods that stems from that.

“We know that traveller numbers will be below pre-Covid levels for awhile and tourism globally will take time to rebound, but today’s announcement means were we’re ready to go, so haere mai welcome back.”

Earlier opening of border will save many businesses, time to get rid of vaccine passes, says Hospitality NZ

The earlier opening of the border to Australian and visa-waiver countries before winter is great news that will save many businesses from collapse, says Hospitality New Zealand.

“It’s sensible and safe to open the border at this time, with our high vaccine rate and Omicron in the community meaning there is no additional risk to our communities.

“Opening before winter will be a game changer for so many businesses in the hardest hit tourism regions, such as the southern ski resorts.

“Crucially, they will have time to prepare for the Australian school holidays, though staffing may be an issue for some.

“Australian visitors typically make up 40 per cent of overall visitors to New Zealand. As Tourism Minister Stuart Nash said – ‘We have missed you.’

“It would be good to get clarity around when we will open to tourists from China and India, because it’s important for business to plan ahead of that.

“Auckland will benefit immediately from opening the Australian corridor.

“The city is suffering from the most disruptive period since the pandemic started in 2020 due to various impacts, including illness and close-contact stand-down periods causing to problems in the supply-chain. 

“The hit to small hospitality and accommodation businesses in the CBD is far worse than lockdown, with many on a knife edge.

“Retail vacancy rates have jumped from less than 2 per cent before the pandemic to 12% last December, and we’re predicting more hospitality venues will close if we do not see immediate changes.

“It’s great to see the Government moving fast on making these decisions this week, but why stop there?

“We need the border fully open to all as soon as possible, we need to get out of the Red traffic light setting so we can have more venues open and get concerts back, and we need to get rid of vaccine passes.

“With Omicron in the community there’s no reason we can’t open borders to all, or that alert settings can’t change at the same time. By definition, according to the Unite against Covid-19 website, we should already be in Orange – and working towards Green.

“We also need an urgent review of vaccine passes. Why are we still enforcing them when we have no locations of interest?

“Also, the complexity and backlog for international visitors getting them is problematic because it currently takes 10 days to get one when they’ve already met the negative-test criteria before arriving.

“The Government needs to ask themselves if passes are relevant in the current environment.

“We believe it should stand them down on May 1 at very latest to coincide with opening the border to the rest of the world.”


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