New Zealand is expected to welcome fully vaccinated travelers from Australia and visa-free countries earlier than expected under a revised reopening schedule announced by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Wednesday.
From 11:59 p.m. on April 12, fully vaccinated Australian citizens and permanent residents can enter New Zealand without having to undertake controlled isolation and less than a month later, from 11:59 p.m. on May 1, visitors from visa-exempt countries such as the UK, USA, Japan, Germany, Korea and Singapore, and those from other countries with a valid visitor’s visa will be welcome.
The initial schedule indicated that these travelers would be welcomed “by July”, but no specific date was given. The reopening announcement comes as the first working holidaymakers arrived in New Zealand earlier this week. The return of visitors from countries not subject to the visa waiver, which is currently scheduled for October, is under review.
A new tourism marketing campaign is being launched this week in Australia to boost demand for travel to New Zealand.
“Apart from three months of quarantine-free travel in 2021 where around 160,000 Australians came here, we missed our Australian visitors,” said Tourism Minister Stuart Nash.
“We can’t wait to meet our friends. Bringing the date forward will accelerate our economic recovery. With borders reopening, TNZ’s business is focused on converting holiday dreams into actual bookings.
The reopening has been widely welcomed by businesses in the hospitality and tourism sector. Here’s what leaders in Australia and New Zealand had to say about the news:
Matt Tripolone, Managing Director of IHG Hotels & Resorts – Australasia and Pacific:
“I couldn’t be happier to see New Zealand’s borders open to Australians in April, this is great news for the tourism and accommodation industry as New Zealand welcomes to new its largest incoming market.
“Our hotel teams are delighted to be opening their doors to international travelers after such a difficult time, and we have some great new hotels ready to open imminently. In fact, the timing is absolutely perfect, with the voco Auckland City Center and the Holiday Inn Express Auckland City Center about to open, and our brand new Holiday Inn Queenstown Remarkables Park ready to welcome guests just as the ski season dawns.
“This is very good news indeed, and there will be plenty of happy holidaymakers and business travelers making plans today.”
Hilton Regional Vice President and Head of Australasia, Asia-Pacific Paul Hutton:
“We at Hilton are delighted with today’s announcement of the start of quarantine travel to New Zealand for vaccinated Australians. We believe that the pent-up demand for travel to New Zealand from Australia is here, and we will see significant increases in our business after opening on April 12th.
“Australia is the primary source market for our seven New Zealand commercial hotels spanning both the North and South Islands. As part of one of the first steps in the country’s plan to reopen to tourists, we look forward to welcoming Australians back to our diverse portfolio in New Zealand after two extremely difficult years.
“While we have seen plenty of domestic travel throughout this period, we are optimistic that the return of Australian business and leisure travelers will serve as a lifeline for our hotels until the country fully reopens to international travel.
“We are also extremely pleased that this reopening serves to re-energize and invigorate our New Zealand team members who have remained so positive and resilient despite the challenges thrown at them over the past two years.
“From the pristine shores of Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown and our Hilton Hotels & Resorts and DoubleTree by Hilton hotels, to the charming Chateau on the Park, the DoubleTree by Hilton hotel in Christchurch and the iconic Hilton Auckland located on Princes Wharf in the most port locations you can find in the city, our collection of properties across New Zealand reflect the destinations, landscapes and people that make the country beautiful.
“And on March 26, we will open our new New Zealand hotel, DoubleTree by Hilton Karaka, located 25 minutes south of Auckland, a further sign of our commitment to the country, as well as the trust that our partners and customers have in our brand, despite the uncertainty of recent times.
Accor Pacific CEO Sarah Derry:
“It’s great news that New Zealand’s borders are starting to reopen, our teams are incredibly excited and we can’t wait to welcome guests back to enjoy one of the most beautiful countries in the world.”
Director of Hotel and Resort Event Hospitality, Norman Arundel:
“This is very good news and we are delighted to see the borders starting to open up.
“We have had an open borders strategy and marketing plan ready for several months, but together with the rest of the industry we will first need to understand the practicalities of the testing regime on both sides of the Tasman.
“There is no doubt that there is pent-up demand and we are well positioned to ensure that our properties will be at the forefront of booking activity once free and easy travel is enabled.”
Strategic Director of Aotearoa Hotel Council, James Doolan:
“Hotel Council Aotearoa is pleased that the government has brought forward the reopening dates for the return of international tourists to New Zealand. It is unfortunate that visa processing capacity appears to be delaying a full reopening, but we will take what we can get.
“Before the borders closed two years ago, 55% of all overnight accommodation revenue came from international travellers. Domestic demand alone was never enough to replace spendthrift international tourists.
“New Zealanders notice the impact of missing international travelers when their favorite restaurant closes or when they see closed shops in tourist destinations such as Auckland’s CBD, Rotorua, the West Coast and Queenstown. Many excellent tourism businesses have not survived two years without their most valuable customers.
“This announcement could have been made six weeks ago when government modellers began predicting tens of thousands of daily cases.
“The Government must now ensure that it does not maintain pre-departure testing requirements for longer than strictly necessary, as cost and inconvenience will be a barrier for many leisure travellers. The UK removed all travel restrictions overnight and competing New Zealand destinations are following a similar path.
“Operationally, there are a number of challenges ahead of us. We need to upgrade to Omicron Orange as soon as possible because Red tier removes demand. Unless vaccine passes are scrapped entirely, it should be much easier for tourists to get them quickly upon arrival. Industry has been concerned for some time about government visa processing capacity and turnaround times. It requires attention.
“Finally, it is no longer time to reopen the maritime border. Cruise ships could have safely returned to New Zealand months ago.
“The hospitality sector faces an almost impossible task of replenishing teams after the loss of 54% of workers in the overnight accommodation sector in the first twelve months after the borders were closed. The Aotearoa Hotel Council has been warning the government of impending labor shortages in tourism since December 2020, but little is being done. This will slow recovery and negatively affect service standards.
New Zealand Hospitality:
“Opening before winter will be a game-changer for so many businesses in the hardest-hit tourist regions, such as southern ski resorts.
“Basically they will have time to prepare for the Australian school holidays, although staff may be an issue for some.
“Visitors from Australia typically make up 40% of the total number of visitors to New Zealand. As Tourism Minister Stuart Nash said: “We missed you.
“We need the border to be fully open to everyone as soon as possible, we need to get out of the red light setting so we can open more venues and resume concerts, and we need to get rid of vaccine passes.
“We believe [Government] should remove them by May 1 at the latest to coincide with the opening of the border to the rest of the world.
Lisa Hopkins, Managing Director of Aotearoa Business Events Industry (BEIA):
“This is the message our international customers needed to hear. We anticipate that between 50 and 60 trade events with international attendees will now be able to take place with confidence this year, bringing back vital export revenue and cash flow to the sector.
“As we see, the mahi (work) is not finished. There are a few critical issues, vital to our sector, that still need to be resolved.
“The first is the need for the government to indicate when we can expect the Covid protection framework to change from red to green. We understand this cannot be happening right now in the middle of Omicron’s peak, but we are keen to ensure this is at the forefront of government thinking.
“The second is the process of entry of participants and visitors into the country. This needs to be refined, as currently it is heavy and not suitable for use.
Air New Zealand CEO Greg Foran:
“It’s no secret that the past two years have been extremely turbulent for people. There is a real buzz today. New Zealand holds a special place in the hearts of many people, whether Kiwis or visitors, landing on New Zealand soil will be a moment to remember.
“It has also been incredibly difficult for our tour operators across the country. Today’s announcement will help them get back to what they do best: welcoming international visitors to Aotearoa.
“Flights across Tasmania have been particularly popular, particularly over the Easter period when we have added over 90 flights to meet demand over this period.
“On our long-haul network, we see a particular interest in travel from North America around the July holiday period. It’s a sign that tourists still have New Zealand at the top of their to-do list.
Ann-Marie Johnson, Tourism Industry Communications Manager at Aotearoa:
“After approximately 730 days of pain in the two years since our international borders were closed, tourism operators finally have confirmation that they can resume operations.
“Tourism was the first industry to be hit by the pandemic and will be the last to recover. Tourism operators large and small have made enormous sacrifices, but
can now focus on rebuilding their businesses.
“We hope today’s announcement will give some Australian families time to book their holiday travel. But in the longer term, it will certainly be a huge boost for our ski season.