Vaccinated travellers entering New Zealand will no longer be required to self-isolate under guidelines announced by COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins this week.

“Cabinet has agreed to lift all self-isolation requirements for vaccinated travellers entering New Zealand from 11:59pm, Wednesday 2 March,” Hipkins said.

“That means that all Kiwis coming home and tourists entering the country will be able to step off the plane and immediately connect with family and friends and enjoy all New Zealand has to offer.”

Travellers will need to show a negative test pre-departure and undertake two rapid antigen tests on arrival and at day 5/6. If a positive test is reported, the standard isolation rules apply.

Hotel Council Aotearoa Strategic Director, James Doolan, told HM, the result was achieved on the back of consistent lobbying from a range of tourism industry advocacy groups. 

“For hotels and other accommodation providers, it’s always been about the border,” Doolan said.

“Before the pandemic and resulting border closures, 55% of all Kiwi overnight accommodation sector revenues came from international travellers, and that share skewed even higher in hotels.

“Hotels and other New Zealand tourism businesses can now start working on securing forward bookings for when borders officially open to international tourists.”

According to Hospitality New Zealand, the decision to remove self-isolation was a “no-brainer” given the high rates of community transmission.

“The community has become more of a risk of infecting people than are people arriving at our border, so it was a no-brainer,” a spokesperson for Hospitality NZ said.

“Till now, many Kiwis wanting to return or visit family have been reluctant to do so by having to spend seven days isolating, so this is a turning point. Now we need them come back and get out to enjoy our great hospitality and accommodation offering.”

Cabinet to review reopening timeline

The Government has also confirmed it will bring forward Step 2 of its staged reopening, permitting New Zealanders from the rest of the world to return from midnight Friday March 4. The timings of the remaining steps will also be reviewed by Cabinet in the coming weeks.

“At present, New Zealand is due to open to Australian tourists and business travellers ‘by’ July,” Doolan said. “The tourism industry is hopeful that this date can be moved forward into April, if the omicron peak does indeed occur this month.”

“As we all know, tourist inflows have a long lead time.  Hotels will be working hard alongside other tourism businesses to rebuild forward bookings and plan for the best possible winter 2022 and summer 22/23.”

Doolan said, however, that significant challenges such as severe labour shortages and increased fixed costs still exist alongside ongoing uncertainty for the industry.    

“Hotels and other New Zealand tourism businesses have made massive sacrifices over the last two years to help keep COVID at bay and buy New Zealand time to roll out its vaccination and booster programs,” he said.

“The contribution and resilience of tourism should be recognised and appreciated as we move on to the next phase of responding to the pandemic.”