Australia’s reopening puts New Zealand tourism sector on the back foot

Australia’s reopening of its international borders for tourists and visitors on February 21 has put the spotlight on New Zealand which is pursuing a quarantine policy even when it begins to reopen its borders later this year.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden seems in no hurry to reopen to the world, saying in her first speech to the House that “we still have a lot of COVID-19 to get through”.

“This year represents the third year of the COVID pandemic,” she said.

“No country is immune from Omicron’s disruption. But we are working hard to avoid the worst of it and we are better prepared than most.”

Arden appears to be banking on getting the population jabbed with a third booster before making any further commitments to seeing a return of international visitors.

“Boosters are the most important determinant of how we will weather the Omicron storm,” she said.

A recent Newshub-Reid Research poll showed 57.8 percent of Kiwis support keeping the international border closed longer to keep Omicron out.

Only 36.3 percent were in favour of reopening to the world.

New Zealand will reopen to Australia before July and the rest of the world by October. But in all cases visitors will be required to quarantine.

The events and tourism sector in New Zealand now faces another year of being cut off from the rest of the world with the forced 10-day self-isolation for visitors a deal breaker for most.

“I think that’s a really significant impact,” said Flight Centre managing director David Coombes.

“I can’t think of too many people who are coming for tourism reasons who are prepared to self isolate for seven to 10 days.”

But Ardern has left the door open for a change in tactic, saying they will be continually monitoring the need for and the value of self-isolation.

“The strong advice from our public health officials is that we still need it to manage our way through Omicron, but there will be a time in the not too distant future when that will not be the case,” she said.