Earlier Opening of Border will Help Save Businesses

The earlier opening of the border to Australian and visa-waiver countries before winter is great news that will save many businesses from collapse, expressed Hospitality New Zealand, but it’s time to get rid of vaccine passes too.

The Government has announced it will open the New Zealand border to vaccinated Australian tourists from 11.59pm on April 12. Tourists from visa-waiver countries like the United States and UK will be able to arrive from 11.59pm on May 1 and others who already hold visas will be able to travel without isolation from May 1 also.

This is a shift from an earlier timetable that put Australia and the visa-waiver countries into one grouping.

“It’s sensible and safe to open the border at this time, with our high vaccine rate and Omicron in the community meaning there is no additional risk to our communities. Opening before winter will be a game changer for so many businesses in the hardest hit tourism regions, such as the southern ski resorts,” noted Hospitality NZ chief executive, Julie White.

“Crucially, they will have time to prepare for the Australian school holidays, though staffing may be an issue for some. Australian visitors typically make up 40 percent of overall visitors to New Zealand. As Tourism Minister Stuart Nash said – ‘We have missed you.”

White added that It would be good to get clarity around when New Zealand will open to tourists from China and India, because it’s important for business to plan ahead of that, she noted that Auckland will benefit immediately from opening the Australian corridor.

“The city is suffering from the most disruptive period since the pandemic started in 2020 due to various impacts, including illness and close-contact stand-down periods causing to problems in the supply-chain,” she continued.

“The hit to small hospitality and accommodation businesses in the CBD is far worse than lockdown, with many on a knife edge.

“Retail vacancy rates have jumped from less than 2 percent before the pandemic to 12 percent last December, and we’re predicting more hospitality venues will close if we do not see immediate changes.”

White said that while it was great to see the Government moving fast on making these decisions this week, why stop there?

“We need the border fully open to all as soon as possible, we need to get out of the Red traffic light setting so we can have more venues open and get concerts back, and we need to get rid of vaccine passes.”

With Omicron in the community many believe there’s no reason New Zealand can’t open borders to all, or that alert settings can’t change at the same time. By definition, according to the Unite against COVID-19 website the country should already be in Orange - and working towards Green.

“We also need an urgent review of vaccine passes. Why are we still enforcing them when we have no locations of interest?” White asked.

“The complexity and backlog for international visitors getting them is problematic because it currently takes 10 days to get one when they’ve already met the negative-test criteria before arriving. The Government needs to ask themselves if passes are relevant in the current environment.

“We believe it should stand them down on 1 May at very latest to coincide with opening the border to the rest of the world.”