New Zealand is bringing forward plans to open its borders to tourists, hoping to boost its economy.
The country will first allow Australians to enter from 23:59 local time on April 12, 2022, in time for the Australian school holidays.
Then from 23:59 on May 1, vaccinated travelers from visa-waiver countries, including the UK, United States, Japan, Germany and Singapore, will be able to arrive.
Previous plans had been for fully vaccinated international tourists from Australia and visa-waiver countries by July 2022
“Reopening in time for the upcoming Australian school holidays will help spur our economic recovery in the short term and is good news for the winter ski season,” New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in a statement on March 16, 2022.
Ardern closed the country’s borders in March 2020 as the pandemic spread across the world, helping to keep infection and death rates low. A travel bubble with Australia was opened up in 2021 but only lasted three months.
“Closing our border was one of the first actions we took to stop COVID-19 two years ago. It did the job we needed. But now that we’re highly vaccinated and predicted to be off our Omicron peak, it’s now safe to open up,” Jacinda Ardern said.
Tourism is big business for the island country, having accounted for 5.5% of gross domestic product prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The news was welcomed by flag carrier Air New Zealand, which called it a huge step forward.
“An incredible and well deserved milestone for the nation’s tourism industry. Here’s to reconnecting and reuniting with the rest of the world,” the airline commented in a social media post.
The country’s tourist board said it was launching a new marketing campaign in Australia, with the slogan ‘Within your wildest Dreams’.
“Tourism New Zealand has been working hard over the past two years to keep ‘Brand New Zealand’ alive in the minds of international travellers,” explained Tourism Minister Stuart Nash. “The new Tourism New Zealand campaign seeks to persuade Australians that our unique landscapes, hospitality and the friendliness of Kiwis are now ‘within your wildest dreams’.”
Ardern said that she knew it would take time for tourism to recover but hoped that tourists would see New Zealand as a safe destination thanks to its tough COVID-19 response, which has resulted in low death rates.
“I am proud that New Zealand is a country which is able to provide a safe place for tourists to return to due to our strong health response to COVID-19,” Ardern said.
Travelers to New Zealand will not need to isolate on arrival, but they will need to have had a pre-departure test, plus take two rapid antigen tests on day 0/1 and 5/6 after arrival.