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Tourism The Biggest Loser From Quarantine Shambles

New Zealand’s already struggling tourism operators will take the biggest hit from the latest high-profile quarantine failings, says a leading New Zealand tourism businesswoman.

“Just when the tourism sector was getting excited about the prospect of an Australian travel bubble, a few Ministry of Health officials have let us down badly. Without doubt, this will set tourism businesses back several more months,” says Veronika Vermeulen, owner of Aroha New Zealand Tours.

This week the Prime Minister admitted New Zealanders have lost confidence in the Government’s management of the Covid-19 at the border and she is now determined to restore public confidence.

Ms Vermeulen says while such determination is to be admired, it could see the Government overreach less than three months out from a general election.

“The real worry is the Prime Minister will want to be seen as tough and decisive, which could mean a harder line against inbound visitors for longer. However, there are smarter ways to achieve better results, and several overseas countries are proving that.”

She says countries like Taiwan, United Arab Emirates, and Iceland are opening their borders safely but strategically with strong protective measures in place to ensure the virus doesn’t enter their countries.

"As we all know, it's all about testing. Test, test, and test again!"

What’s more, after three months of lockdowns, the European Union has now told member nations they should open to each other as soon as possible, with the likes of France and Germany already heeding their advice.

Ms Vermeulen says Taiwan is now allowing businesspeople in from lower-risk areas including New Zealand on strict conditions. They must prove a negative test three days before arriving and remain subject to 14 days of quarantine, but they can shorten that if they pay for a test and test negative. She says similar arrangements should be put in place with Australian visitors.

"Frankly, opening the door carefully to Australia would save our business lives. The Foreign Minister is instead now talking up Pacific ‘bubbles’ but they’ll only send domestic visitors overseas. The stark reality is we need inbound tourists if we’re to survive after the wage subsidy scheme runs out.

“Given New Zealand’s quarantine mistakes, we need to create a smarter border and a safer country, but let’s not crash more businesses and create more job losses. Yes, the Government needs to restore public confidence, but not at the expense of our $40b tourism sector already on its knees.

“Tourism operators want to see a plan to safely open our country’s borders and understand exactly where we are at with the Australian travel bubble. Restoring public confidence will come when Kiwis know there are full-proof systems in place, not by further decimating our biggest export earner,” says Veronika Vermeulen.

Veronika Vermeulen is owner of Aroha New Zealand Tours and a travel industry expert. She has been welcoming high-value, luxury foreign travellers to New Zealand for over 20 years.

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