Fares to New Zealand will rise to offset higher border and biosecurity fees to take effect.

Air and cruise fares to access New Zealand will likely be raised by airlines and cruise operators to offset a rise in border control fees set to be introduced from 1 December.

Following an extensive review, the New Zealand Customs Service and Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) will increase 117% from NZ$20.11 per person inclusive of GST, to NZ$43.73 per person on all short-term arrivals. Passengers arriving on cruise ships will see their fees go up 74% from NZ$20.11 to NZ$36.72 however these are charged once per person for multiple port visits on a single itinerary.

The increases are less than some of the options which had been tabled as part of the review, including one which would have seen fees jump a staggering 478% to NZ$116.25 as a means of not just offsetting ongoing operational costs but recouping what has already been spent on the service, which has been subsidized by the government and the NZ taxpayer. Instead, the new amount will cover operational costs moving forward in full but won’t pay back what has already been spent.

The arrival entrance gate decorated with art carvings at Auckland Airport.

In setting the new fees, Customs and MPI say that processing of travellers will be different in the post COVID-19 era with additional costs and checks required to be covered such as processing ‘green zone’ arrivals from safer areas compared to ‘red zone’ travellers from COVID hotspots where a mandatory hotel quarantine period must be served. The department added the expected lower number of travellers will also mean less revenue, justifying the higher cost.

The levy increase has left the New Zealand tourism industry disappointed, with Tourism Industry Aotearoa CEO, Chris Roberts, saying secure borders was a critical public health requirement but introducing the cost-recovery pricing model before borders are reopened made no sense as it was impossible to predict arrival numbers going forward.

Tourism Industry Aotearoa CEO, Chris Roberts.

“We are surprised the BPL is going up before we know when our borders will actually open and what the demand for travel will be,” Roberts said.

“The new fees are supposed to recover the full cost of the border services over the next three years, but it is impossible to accurately predict what the travel patterns will be.”

The government will also pay airlines the difference between the current and new levy rates for tickets sold for travel between 1 December 2021 and 28 March 2022 on tickets paid in full before 29 September 2021. For tickets purchased for travel on 29 March 2022 and later, airlines will need to absorb the higher border clearance levy.