New Zealand has reopened its border to Australians, with quarantine-free travel resuming between the two countries at 11.59pm on Tuesday night.

With the exception of a brief travel bubble with Australia in 2021, New Zealand has remained closed to visitors for over two years to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Tourism Industry Aotearoa (TIA) Chief Executive, Rebecca Ingram, is hopeful that the reopening can drive a successful ski season and summer 2022-23 for local tourism businesses.  

“The industry is reporting forward bookings are gaining momentum, and there’s definitely a more positive feeling about the future and the opportunities to rebuild businesses,” Ingram said.

Both Air New Zealand and Qantas have added additional services into Christchurch this week, and almost all 16 flights are full, according to Christchurch Airport Manager Communications, Yvonne Densem.

“Our view is the attractions of the South Island are all still here and ready for visitors. We are looking forward to saying ‘welcome back cobber!’ more often,” Densem said.  

Accor Pacific has seen a steady increase in bookings since the reopening announcement on March 16, particularly in Queenstown and Auckland destinations, according to company Chief Executive Sarah Derry.

“Bookings in April reflect a desire for Australians to reconnect with family and friends as soon as possible, and we are seeing booking trends which suggest Australians want to make the most of the upcoming winter ski season in Queenstown,” Derry said.

On the eve of reopening, Destination Queenstown (DQ) announced that it has appointed PEPR Agency to manage its Australian PR account, as it seeks to leverage pent up demand from the Australian market.

“Queenstown has shown such resilience over the last two years, the way our community has banded together to see the challenges of the border closure has been nothing short of amazing,” said DQ Marketing and Communications Director, Sarah O’Donnell.

“But we’re very much ready to welcome Australians back to Queenstown to connect with our environment and our diverse product offering.”

Through PEPR, DQ intends to communicate Queenstown’s wider mission with the Australian market.

“As we reopen our border, we want to drive tourism but also make sure it returns in style that supports the social and environmental initiatives of the region,” O’Donnell said.

Reopening to the world

Next month, on May 1, visitors from visa waiver countries, including the USA, UK, Europe, Japan, Korea, and Singapore, will also be permitted to return to New Zealand.

Car rental company Go Rentals is seeing a lift in bookings from some international markets for the upcoming school holidays in April and for the ski season in July.

“Internationally, we are seeing great business from Australia, with solid business already coming through from Europe,” said Go Rentals Chief Operating Officer, James Daglish.

“Other international markets are still a little reserved at this stage.”

While the reopening will bring a much-needed boost for New Zealand’s tourism businesses, TIA expects the return of visitors will be ‘slow and steady’, with people visiting friends and family first following by Australian and US visitors.

“We know there people around the world have continued to dream about a holiday in New Zealand, however TIA’s Recovery Roadmap suggests it could be 2-3 years before we find our ‘new normal’, meaning new levels of demand and travel patterns,” Ingram said.

She thanked New Zealanders for supporting tourism businesses over the past two years by exploring new destinations and experiences.

“Tourism is not an island – it’s connected to so many parts of our economy and our communities and the return of visitors will make a positive difference to many people,” she said.

“Kiwis are such an important part of our tourism industry, not just as domestic travellers, but because of the manaakitanga and warm welcome they extend to international visitors.”