New Zealand to reopen to tourists much earlier than expected: ‘Ready to welcome the world back’

Tourists from visa-waiver countries like US and UK will be able to visit the country from 1 May

Sravasti Dasgupta
Wednesday 16 March 2022 07:33 GMT
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New Zealand will open its borders for tourists earlier than expected, with prime minister Jacinda Ardern saying the country was “ready to welcome the world back”.

Ms Arden announced in a press briefing on Wednesday that the country will ease its restrictions from 1 May, in a move that is expected to boost the economy in the wake of the Covid pandemic.

“Closing our border was one of the first actions we took to stop Covid-19 over two years ago, and its reopening will spur our economic recovery throughout the remainder of the year,” Ms Arden said.

While the government had earlier announced that the country will open to tourists in October, Ms Arden said the plan will be brought forward.

Tourists from neighbouring Australia will now be able to travel to New Zealand from 12 April, while those from visa-waiver countries – like US, Britain and many European countries – can visit the country from 1 May under the new plan.

Tourists from non-waiver countries like India and China, however, will need to wait longer, unless they already have valid visitor visas.

Under its earlier plan announced last month, tourists from the UK, US, Australia and other visa-free countries, were to be allowed to enter in July, while tourists from the rest of the world would have been allowed in only from October.

The new plan also requires tourists to be vaccinated before arriving in New Zealand.

International tourism used to account for about 20 per cent of New Zealand’s foreign income and more than 5 per cent of its gross domestic product, before some of the world’s strictest border restrictions were enacted to tackle the pandemic.

The country had sought a “zero-Covid” policy for much of the pandemic, which included a ban on foreigners in the country for two years, excluding a brief travel bubble with Australia.

“I know from visiting tourism operators, and talking to their staff, how tough these past two years have been,” Ms Ardern said.

“And not only because of the massive loss of tourism revenue, but because we lost something we derived so much of our identity from.”

The announcement of bringing forward the entry of international tourists has been praised by members of the tourism industry.

“Tourism operators finally have confirmation they can get back to business,” Ann-Marie Johnson, a spokesperson for Tourism Industry Aotearoa, was quoted as saying by the Associated Press.

“Tourism was the first industry to be affected by the pandemic and will be the last to recover. Tourism operators both large and small have made huge sacrifices but can now focus on rebuilding their businesses.”

Air New Zealand Chief Executive Officer Greg Foran said the move would help tourism operators “get back to what they do best and welcoming international visitors”.

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