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Scan Through Green Shoots And Challenges Shaping The NZ Travel Sector

As countries across the globe open their doors to international travellers, New Zealand (NZ) has joined the race to welcome foreign visitors. While many nations have already launched travel channels with other partner countries, NZ has decided to open its overseas borders next year. In the current scenario, it seems essential for the country’s travel sector to tackle underlying shortcomings and hold onto existing green shoots to facilitate a smooth reopening with the world.

With the holiday season around the corner, many New Zealanders would seek an opportunity to visit their loved ones and thus, looking forward to an early reopening of the borders. However, the NZ government has kept restrictions stringent across the country since the very beginning of the pandemic, making them one of the toughest in the world.

Amid the changing dynamics of the pandemic, it seems to be the right time for NZ to create a border reopening plan that does not compromise on the nation’s safety and aligns with its high-level containment measures. This can be achieved by diligently following COVID-related protocols and implementing proper testing measures.

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At a time when several emigrants stuck abroad are eagerly waiting to return home, some challenges and green shoots gleaming in the travel sector demand closer attention.

Bright spots in travel sector

Reopening a nation, which is as tightly secured as New Zealand, is no easy task. However, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has made domestic and international borders reopening the nation’s priority. As per the new announcement, NZ has decided to allow fully vaccinated overseas travellers into the country from January 2022 in a gradual easing of virus restrictions.

The government has planned the entry of international travellers in three phases. In the initial leg of the process, NZ residents staying in the neighbouring country, Australia, will be allowed to travel back into the country, with residents from other countries being included gradually. Under the currently imposed rules, those who wish to travel to the country would have to stay in quarantine in government-run facilities.

However, new rules could completely change the game, which would require individuals to isolate themselves at home for just seven days. This can be extremely helpful for those who have permanent residence in the country. However, others would have to find a space to isolate themselves in hotels or homestays.

On the domestic front, Auckland, which was the epicentre of the Delta outbreak in the country, will be open to travel from 15 December. Surprisingly, the decision has been taken at a time when the wrath of the virus is at its peak, with daily cases rising past 200 and hospitalisations nearing 100 cases per day.

On the brighter side, vaccination rates have also picked up, making the case stronger for the lifting of travel bans. According to the Ministry of Health, over 80 per cent of the eligible population have been double vaccinated in the country so far, with over 90 per cent having at least one dose. These vaccinated individuals will be allowed to travel across New Zealand after showing proof of a negative COVID-19 test report.

Challenges demand attention

While New Zealand did not show much enthusiasm on the international travel front earlier, it is certainly now looking at ways to return to normal travelling conditions soon. However, the process is expected to be much slower and gradual for NZ than for other nations.

Despite the reassuring signs, one could expect the reopening process to get delayed if the virus cases continue to mount. This might prompt the country to wait for a few more months before opening for international travel.

Meanwhile, even as talks of reopening arise in New Zealand, the government plans to impose a seven-day self-isolation period on the international travellers, labelled “excessive” by some experts. Some critics consider this move as an unnecessary effort, given the rising vaccination rates.

Given New Zealand’s history of tight containment restrictions, a sudden easing of measures could be a distant possibility. While the nation wishes to tread slowly on the issue, many New Zealanders isolated in foreign countries seem keen to set foot home soon. In the current scenario, increased vaccination rates and adherence to proper virus protocols can be a mid-way out of New Zealand’s existing problems.

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