The New Zealand border announcement has created a ticking timebomb for events & tourism

Perhaps one of the most disturbing things about the announcement was that the words ‘events sector and tourism’ didn’t leave prime minister Ardern’s lips

The New Zealand government recently announced their border reopening timelines to the world. Whilst this news is a huge step in the right direction, it needs more clarity and with specific timelines before we’re able to plan for upcoming seasons and events.

The basics lay out the ‘plan’ in 5 steps.

Step 1 11:59pm Sunday 27th February: Vaccinated Kiwis and other currently eligible travellers from Australia will be able to travel to New Zealand and instead of going into MIQ [hotel quarantine], will be able to self-isolate. Residents, citizens and those with exemptions to travel.

Step 2 11.59pm Sunday 13th March: Vaccinated New Zealanders and other currently eligible travellers from the rest of the world will also be able to travel into New Zealand without going through MIQ. Residents, citizens and those with exemptions to travel.

Step 3 11:59pm Tuesday 12th April: Border extension to include a large international student cohort of up to 5,000 students for entry ahead of semester 2 and temporary visa holders who still meet relevant visa requirements.

Step 4 July at the latest: with the potential (and high likelihood) for this step to be pulled forward. All Visa Waiver Countries [which includes Australia]  Here is the list – https://www.immigration.govt.nz/…/visa-waiver-countries

There is currently a self-isolation requirement of an undisclosed length, which is likely to be 7 or 10 days.

Step 5 October: Everyone else! All other visitors and students who REQUIRE A VISA and are NOT Visa Waiver countries to enter New Zealand, with normal visa processing resuming.

As you can see there’s significant space for the goalposts to move. Specifically with reference to ‘eligible travelers’, ‘self-isolation time-lines’ and the mention of visitors from visa waiver countries able to come back by July ‘at the latest’. In-order to allow tourism and event operators to plan we ideally needed a specific set of dates for reopening and no isolation requirement for visitors. If July remains the goal the ski season will be lost. And if the self-isolation for tourists remains in place, airlines won’t put us on the map and visitors will simply choose not to travel to New Zealand for a third season.

Perhaps one of the most disturbing things about this announcement was that the words ‘events sector and tourism’ didn’t leave Prime Minister Ardern’s lips. Tourism is a sector that previously provided 20.4% of New Zealand’s exports but somehow we’ve been completely forgotten. “We’ve gone from being the darlings to the dirt-bags” as one industry peer said last week.

Australia’s move to open up from the 21st February 2022 puts New Zealand on the back foot for working holiday visa holders, visitors and business events. Not to mention the efforts that will be required to fill the skills-shortage & infrastructure-gaps that Covid 19 will leave in its wake.

I reiterate, this is a step in a positive direction from our risk averse government here in New Zealand. However, as the Tourism Export Council has conveyed, there’s still a ‘thumping big bat’ coming right at us. The announcement doesn’t go far enough to confidently signal to international markets that New Zealand is open to business and this is extremely worrying. Furthermore, the self-isolation requirement will destroy demand if it remains in place.

If New Zealand is to have any chance of rebuilding its decimated international tourism sector, the government must remove the self-isolation requirements as soon as. This is a handbrake that will keep New Zealand disconnected from the rest of the world.

Many international operators here are unsure if they’ll even make it to the July starting gates and international airlines are set to make their final decisions in March about keeping New Zealand on their global networks. The clock’s ticking and a bomb is set to go off.

Eve Lawrence Haka Tourism Group