New Zealand has reopened its border to Australians, with quarantine-free travel resuming between the two countries at 11:59 p.m. Tuesday evening.
Except for a brief travel bubble with Australia in 2021, New Zealand has remained closed to visitors for more than two years to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Aotearoa Tourism Industry (TIA) Chief Executive Rebecca Ingram hopes the reopening can lead to a successful ski season and summer 2022-23 for local tourism businesses.
“The industry is reporting forward bookings are picking up momentum, and there’s definitely a more positive sentiment about the future and opportunities to rebuild businesses,” Ingram said.
Air New Zealand and Qantas have added additional services to Christchurch this week, and nearly all 16 flights are fully booked, according to Christchurch Airport Communications Manager Yvonne Densem.
“Our view is that the South Island attractions are still there and ready for visitors. We look forward to saying ‘welcome cobber!’ more often,” Densem said.
Accor Pacific has seen a steady increase in bookings since announcing the reopening on March 16, particularly in destinations Queenstown and Auckland, according to the company’s chief executive, Sarah Derry.
“Bookings in April reflect Australians’ desire to reconnect with family and friends as soon as possible, and we’re seeing booking trends that suggest Australians want to make the most of the upcoming winter ski season in Queenstown.” , Derry said.
On the eve of reopening, Destination Queenstown (DQ) announced that it had appointed agency PEPR to manage its Australian PR account as it seeks to tap into pent up demand from the Australian market.
“Queenstown has shown such resilience over the past two years, the way our community has come together to meet the challenges of the border closure has been nothing short of amazing,” said Sarah O’Donnell, director of marketing and communications of DQ.
“But we are fully prepared to welcome Australians back to Queenstown to connect with our environment and our diverse product offering.”
Through PEPR, DQ intends to communicate Queenstown’s wider mission to the Australian market.
“As we reopen our border, we want to boost tourism but also make sure it returns in a style that supports the region’s social and environmental initiatives,” O’Donnell said.
Reopening to the world
Next month, on May 1, visitors from visa-free countries including the US, UK, Europe, Japan, Korea and Singapore will also be allowed to return to New Zealand.
Car rental company Go Rentals is seeing an increase in bookings from some international markets for the upcoming school holidays in April and for the ski season in July.
“Internationally, we are seeing excellent business from Australia, with strong business already coming from Europe,” said James Daglish, COO of Go Rentals.
“The other international markets are still a bit reserved at this stage.”
While the reopening will provide a much-needed boost to New Zealand tourism businesses, the TIA expects the return of visitors to be “slow and steady”, with people visiting friends and family, followed by Australian and American visitors.
“We know people around the world have kept dreaming of vacationing in New Zealand, but TIA’s recovery roadmap suggests it could be 2-3 years before we find our ‘new normal’. “which means new levels of demand and travel patterns,” Ingram says.
She thanked New Zealanders for supporting tourism businesses over the past two years by exploring new destinations and experiences.
“Tourism is not an island – it is linked to many aspects of our economy and communities and returning visitors will make a positive difference for many people,” she said.
“Kiwis are such an important part of our tourism industry, not just as domestic travelers, but because of the manaakitanga and the warm welcome they extend to international visitors.”