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28 October 21: Tourism operators need more border certainty

The slight easing of border restrictions for some international travellers is a small step in the right direction but tourism operators need more certainty about the Government’s plans for reconnecting New Zealand with the world, Tourism Industry Aotearoa says.

Arrivals from several South Pacific nations will be able to enter New Zealand without MIQ requirements from November 8. For other arrivals, the time spent in MIQ will be shortened and followed by a period of isolation at home.

The option of self-isolation at home will be made available to increasing numbers of fully vaccinated travellers in the first quarter of 2022.

However, the Government says the first priority is returning New Zealanders and visa holders. COVID-19 Minister Chris Hipkins described international manuhiri as ‘more of a challenge’ and said that the Government has not worked through the complexities yet.

TIA Chief Executive Chris Roberts says tourism operators are desperate to know when they will get access to their offshore customers again.

“New Zealand’s once thriving tourism industry continues to be the overlooked casualty of the pandemic. It’s now 21 months since the first border restrictions were put in place. International visitor spend was previously worth $48 million a day, and the cumulative loss since we closed our borders now exceeds $25 billion,” Mr Roberts says.

This week’s lifting of the iconic Lakeland Queen paddle-driven vessel from Lake Rotorua and the loss of 15 jobs is just one sad example of the impact on tourism businesses.

“Given the severity of the crisis, the resilience of tourism operators has been phenomenal. Some have been forced to close but the majority are hanging on. However, reserves and resolve are running out,” Mr Roberts says.

Every tourism operator is hoping for a good Kiwi summer but the uncertainty over whether New Zealanders will be able to travel around the country is impacting on bookings.

Some operators will not make it to Christmas and others may not earn enough over the summer season to carry on, he says.

“Tourism operators are ready and willing to work with the Government to sort out the ‘complexities’ so we can safely welcome international visitors and agree a likely timeline. Until then, targeted support to help tourism operators survive until our borders reopen needs to be seriously considered.”