ZB

Border reopens to international visitors from visa-waiver countries

Author
Newstalk ZB, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Mon, 2 May 2022, 7:25am
Another step in the border reopening takes place today. (Photo / Sylvie Whinray)
Another step in the border reopening takes place today. (Photo / Sylvie Whinray)

Border reopens to international visitors from visa-waiver countries

Author
Newstalk ZB, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Mon, 2 May 2022, 7:25am

After more than two long years, international tourists are once again allowed into New Zealand.

From this morning visitors from around 60 visa-waiver countries, like Australians already, can now travel here without isolation if they are vaccinated and do a pre-departure and arrival test for Covid-19.

Tourism Minister Stuart Nash said thousands of passengers were expected to arrive on about 25 flights at Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch international airports in the next stage of the reopening plan.

"Today marks a milestone for visitors from our key northern hemisphere markets in the USA, UK, Germany, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Canada and others, who can now jump on a plane to come here.

"Direct flights arrive today from places like Los Angeles, San Francisco, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, as well as airports closer to home in Australia, Nadi, and Rarotonga. Many will be connecting flights bringing people from further afield."

There were currently just over 30,000 people arriving into the country each week - a significant increase on the trickle throughout the pandemic, but still well down on pre-Covid levels. In January 2020 about 25,000 people were arriving each day.

Nash said today's changes would see a further increase in arrivals, and international flight searches to New Zealand were running 19 per cent higher than pre-Covid (March-April 2019).

Later this year major international airlines like Emirates, Air Canada, Malaysian Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, LATAM Airlines and Air Tahiti Nui are restarting routes.

Air NZ was also adding long haul routes from San Francisco, Honolulu, Houston, New York and Chicago.

The changes also applied to those with existing visitor visas, and join vaccinated Australian visitors, temporary work visa holders, and student visa holders who still meet their visa requirements, who are already able to come to New Zealand.

Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi said up to 5000 international students were able to come here for the second semester of the academic year.

Over 6000 applications Working Holiday Visas had also been approved since March.

"They will not only have a great time on holiday here but can work to support our tourism, hospitality and horticultural sectors," Faafoi said.

On Sunday the Government announced new, more accurate Covid tests which return results in 30 minutes would be trialled at Auckland Airport.

Lamp (loop-mediated isothermal amplification) tests can be self-administered like a RAT (rapid antigen test), but are much more accurate.

Air NZ CEO Greg Foran said the airline would "ideally" like Covid-19 testing to be removed from travel.

"But this [test] is a good insurance policy should we suddenly find ourselves in a different situation in the near term."

Foran said the further border reopening was a "big day for us", noting it had been 767 days since New Zealand shut its border to anyone without residency or citizenship in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Foran said almost 1000 people will arrive on the first three flights, from Los Angeles, San Francisco and Fiji.

He said he expected visitor numbers to start seriously increasing in July.

"I think it's still reasonably early in this. What we've got are a lot of people who are keen to reconnect with family and friends and relatives.

"We're increasingly seeing businesspeople starting to get out and wanting to reconnect. And my view is that when we get to July school holidays, I think we will see some pretty good travel not only domestically but internationally."

Air NZ had recalled about 800 pilots and cabin crew in anticipation of increased travel numbers.

"We've got quite a bit hiring spree going on at the moment."

- by Michael Neilson, NZ Herald