Tourism Industry Aotearoa (TIA) says while the New Zealand Government’s border reopening announcements are welcome, it must be prepared to remove self-isolation requirements as soon as health risks lessen.
TIA spokesperson, Ann-Marie Johnson said the staged opening of the border announced by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is a positive step towards reconnecting friends and family.
And the return of visitors on working holiday visas from March will also be welcome news to many employers in tourism and other industries who are struggling to find staff.
But the Government’s willingness, she said, to be flexible and remove self-isolation requirements ahead of schedule will be essential to the survival of the visitor economy.
While these requirements are in place, New Zealand remains off the radar for international travellers.
“We are pleased that Prime Minister Ardern stated the potential to move dates forward as we move through each reopening phase,” Ms Johnson said.
“The sooner we can signal intentions and timelines for reopening without the requirement for self-isolation, the sooner the industry can get its preparations underway.”
In its latest visitor insights research, strategy company Angus & Associates found that despite the emergence of Omicron in the community, the majority of Kiwis still support a reopening of the border now.
“The need for self-isolation is questionable, especially if Omicron becomes endemic in the community as modelling suggests. With risks equalised between New Zealand and overseas, the rationale for keeping self-isolation rules in place no longer exists,” Ms Johnson said.
In a letter to Tourism Minister, Stuart Nash earlier this week, TIA noted that quarantine-free travel should be possible within the second quarter of 2022, once the health concerns from the Omicron wave have abated.
This is a beacon of hope for the tourism industry, which otherwise faces another winter of difficult trading conditions.
“The single biggest issue for restarting international tourism is to remove the self-isolation requirements,” Ms Johnson said.
“Requiring international visitors to spend the first seven days in isolation will mean very limited arrivals. Most tourism operators will have to survive through another long winter before they can expect potential visitors.
“Airlines and cruise operators that are part of the global systems need long lead times for scheduling and selling their routes and capacity.”
TIA says continued targeted Government support for businesses in the visitor economy is needed until the requirements are relaxed, to ensure business’ survival. Otherwise, the coming months will result in many more business closures and job losses.
Mike Parker-Brown is a UK-trained and qualified journalist and an award-winning travel communicator with more than 30 years experience.
Since 2002, Mike has worked as a freelance writer and PR consultant providing his services to major organisations in Australia and internationally in the tourism, aviation, hospitality, recruitment and export marketing sectors.