ZB

Travel uptake revealed as Visa Waiver countries return

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Fri, 20 May 2022, 2:47pm
23,000 tourists have registered to enter the country from visa waiver countries since borders eased. Photo / Unsplash
23,000 tourists have registered to enter the country from visa waiver countries since borders eased. Photo / Unsplash

Travel uptake revealed as Visa Waiver countries return

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Fri, 20 May 2022, 2:47pm

Of the 1.2 million Electronic Travel Authorities (NZeTAs) granted to tourists prior to March 2020, there are fewer than five still valid for travel. 

Since the borders reopened to travellers from Visa Waiver countries at the beginning of May, the slow rebuild of tourists has been clear to New Zealand's border authorities. 

MBIE has revealed it has granted just 23,268 new NZeTAs since border announcements in March. 

Stephen Dunstan, MBIE's general manager for enablement, said that the NZeTA became a requirement for visa-waiver countries from October 2019. 

As the electronic entry permits for inbound air and cruise passengers are valid for just two years, it gives a stark picture of pre and post pandemic travel. 

"There are fewer than 5 holders of an NZeTA that had been issued prior to 19 March 2020 that have yet to expire," said Dunstan. 

While these visa-waiver numbers illustrates the slow rebuild of travel routes and uptake of long-haul travel, they do not give the whole picture. 

There are still 341,479 currently active, granted since borders were closed by the pandemic. Many of these belong to travellers based out of Australia or applied for in anticipation of reopening for non-residents. 

This does not take into account Australian tourists, however it is a good indicator for travel from long-haul visa waiver countries in Europe and the Americas. 

"Australian citizens travelling on an Australian passport are exempt from requiring an NZeTA. However, Australian residents will be required to have an NZeTA." 

According to Stats NZ there were 155,200 overseas visitors from Australia recorded between April and July 2021, while the 'Transtasman bubble' was open for quarantine free travel. 

Conservation Levy lower than expected 

Since 2019 a new environmental tourism levy of $35 was applied to tourists entering New Zealand. For visitors from visa waiver countries this was attached to the NZeTA. 

It aimed to support conservation projects and offset the impact of tourism. 

$1.5m of the International Visitor Levy has gone to Kākāpō conservation. Photo / Peter Meecham 

The IVL was predicted to raise around $450m in its first five years, however, this projection has been scaled back due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The first reporting year to June 2020 was already 30 per cent lower than forecast. There is a severe drop predicted for the following pandemic reporting year. 

However, the pot of $57.3 million has already been distributed between projects as diverse as Kākāpō recovery and $5.2 million for promoting tourism careers. 

"The investment priorities for the IVL are guided by the New Zealand-Aotearoa Government Tourism Strategy and DOC Visitor and Heritage Strategy," said Dunstan. 

"These priorities are spilt between conservation and tourism, with four pillars to help shape and guide the investment plan priorities." 

- by Thomas Bywater, NZ Herald