New Zealand to welcome Australian tourists in April

Businesses are now asking if vaccine passes are still relevant

New Zealand to welcome Australian tourists in April

New Zealand will be welcoming back tourists earlier than previously planned, following an announcement from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern that borders will reopen to Australians starting April 12.

According to Ardern, tourists from visa-waiver countries will be welcomed starting May 1, more than two weeks after reopening to Australia. This includes the countries of tourists coming from the United Kingdom, United States, Japan, Germany, Korea, and Singapore.

"Closing our border was one of the first actions we took to stop COVID-19 two years ago. It did the job we needed. But now that we're highly vaccinated and predicted to be off our Omicron peak, it's now safe to open up," Ardern said in a statement.

"Today's announcement will be a welcome boost for our tourism operators who have done it harder than many over the last two years."

Arrivals will no longer need to isolate upon landing, but they will need to present a pre-departure COVID-19 test, as well as two further rapid antigen tests on their Day 0/1 and Day 5/6, according to the government announcement.

"I am proud that New Zealand is a country which is able to provide a safe place for tourists to return to due to our strong health response to COVID-19," said Ardern.

"We can see from our record export prices for our goods that New Zealand is in demand internationally at the moment. A big focus of the rest of this year will be encouraging the world to buy our goods and to visit."

Businesses welcome plan

The new schedule puts reopening weeks ahead of the original July plan that was announced early February - an acceleration that was lauded by businesses and associations eager to recover from the pandemic.

The Auckland Business Chamber chief executive officer Michael Barnett said in a statement that tourism operators, airlines, and the hospitality sector will be working "feverishly" to create unique packages to put New Zealand back on the list of places to go to.

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Barnett underscored to businesses that tourists will be expecting "outstanding service and value" once they arrive in the country, which also makes it high time for the workforce to be retrained.

"Now is the time to review product and retrain a workforce to encourage new entrants with the lure of career paths and transferrable skills."

Review on vaccine passes

Hospitality NZ also welcomed New Zealand's updated plans for reopening, calling it a "game changer" for the industry.

"Opening before winter will be a game changer for so many businesses in the hardest hit tourism regions, such as the southern ski resorts," said the association, adding that Auckland will "benefit immediately" from the plan.

However, the group called on the government to review the relevance of vaccine passes especially with tourists coming in, pointing out that obtaining the passes can take several days.

"We also need an urgent review of vaccine passes. Why are we still enforcing them when we have no locations of interest?" asked the association. "The complexity and backlog for international visitors getting them is problematic because it currently takes 10 days to get one when they've already met the negative-test criteria before arriving."

"We believe it should stand them down on 1 May at very latest to coincide with opening the border to the rest of the world," it further suggested.

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