New Zealand expects a tourism surge as all arrival restrictions exit

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Students and visitors will be welcome from midnight Sunday

Venkat Raman
Auckland, July 29, 2022

Two more days to go before New Zealand’s international border opens to the world welcoming visitors from non-visa waiver countries and international students.

Happy days would be here again at the stroke of midnight (11.59 pm to be precise) on Sunday.

Closed doors have been the bone of contention that the current Labour-majority government has had to face severe criticism from opposition parties and the general public.

But the move, welcome as it is, does not answer all the questions.

The issue relating to migrant workers who left the shores of New Zealand before or during the first lockdown in March 2020 is still elusive. Most of these stranded workers now suffer the fate of expired visas. No government has the power to ‘renew’ them but with the border set to open to all, migrant workers have the opportunity of returning on new work visas or visit visas.

Tourism Minister Stuart Nash and Immigration Minister Michael Wood said that the move is the final step in the government’s reconnecting plan.

Mr Nash said that since April 2022, visitors from key markets such as Australia have been able to travel to New Zealand and that the tourism sector is in revival mode.

“We are seeing a strong uptick in arrivals from Australia and the US, with Queenstown receiving a surge in visitors. The change in border settings marks the final milestone for our reconnecting strategy. This is great news to the tourism industry and economy as we approach spring and summer with people from the Northern hemisphere booking their winter holidays. We have heard optimistic messages from tourism operators who are ready to welcome back international visitors from all over the world,” he said.

Mr Nash said that he is pleased that the $49 million Tourism Kick-start Fund has been put to good use by 481 businesses most affected by the border closure. This fund has helped operators gear up for the return of international visitors.

“Globally, there is pent-up demand for people to visit New Zealand. In January, 58% of Australians who would like to visit New Zealand wanted to come within six months of borders opening. This number is even higher for our American target market, at 77%,” he said.

The announcement also marks the opening of the maritime border to cruise ships, specialist vessels and recreational vessels such as ocean-going yachts.

According to Mr Nash, the return of cruise ships is another boost for local communities. Before the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, these visits were valued at more than $500 million a year, of which $356 million was spent onshore, providing valuable economic contribution.

“Most cruise visits are during the warmer months of October to April, and summer is our bumper tourism season overall. This means it will be full steam ahead for the industry who can plan with certainty for the rest of the year and beyond,” he said.

Mr Wood said the changes in border settings signalled the resumption of key visa categories including students and visitors.

“People coming to New Zealand to work will primarily use the Accredited Employer Work Visa, which opened on 4 July. Before the pandemic, the international education sector was worth several billion dollars to our country and education providers. While we have continued to support the sector with border exceptions through the pandemic, the full resumption of visa processing is great news for our universities, polytechnics and wānanga, and schools, English language schools, and private training establishments,” he said.

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