This week when New Zealand announced plans for the return of international visitors, Eve Lawrence found little reason to celebrate Auckland’s Haka Tourism Group CEO.
After closing the limits that reduce business for nearly two years, Lawrence will have to wait at least another five months before that. welcoming foreign customers. Even then, tourists will have to be isolated at home for seven days – Lawrence believes the condition will prevent many from coming.
“Now we’re missing the summer this year and we’re losing it next summer as well, because we’re dependent on long-term people coming to New Zealand; I mean it’s a long way to go,” Lawrence said, adding that he hoped. travel agencies and airlines do not have to promote New Zealand under these conditions.
“They’re not going to sell New Zealand. They’re going to get us out of the brochure.”
Lawrence said his company, whose revenues have dropped about 95 percent in the pandemic, was preparing for the toughest six-month business that could be in place so far.
“The last 21 months have been a complete nuisance,” he said.
New Zealand’s decision to close the borders in March 2020 helped keep the country free of COVID-19 throughout the pandemic, until a major Delta outbreak in September forced authorities to withdraw from their “zero COVID” strategy.
The South Pacific country has reported fewer than 11,000 COVID-19 cases and only 41 deaths, one of the lowest tolls in the world.
But the country’s stringent border policies have left it increasingly isolated as China and other countries try to reopen and live with the virus. Although New Zealand’s overall economy grew by 2.8 per cent in the second quarter, the country’s tourism and travel sector had little rest, employing more than 225,000 people before the pandemic and 20 per cent of exports.
In May, a survey conducted by the Aotear Tourism Industry found that tourism companies had lost an average of 40 percent of their workforce and that revenue had been halved in the previous 12 months.
On Wednesday, the Youth Shelters Association announced that it would permanently close all 11 of its shelters, citing a resurgence of summer travel and a “pandemic” that lasted “too long”.
Brian Westwood, former director of the Youth Shelter Association, said the border ads were a disappointment to the sector that was “mostly abandoned” during the pandemic.
“It’s impossible to predict the impact because many businesses are private and protected by personal finances, repossessed homes and family loans,” Westwood said. “Six more months without international visitors and fewer home visitors is an unbearable attitude for many.
Our industry is innovative, our operators are workers and they are looking for many ways to keep their heads out of the water, but the rise in debt will be excessive for some. ”
Westwood said companies could not understand whether New Zealanders who had been vaccinated since January could enter the country but not foreign visitors.
“Restricting visits to New Zealand only challenges logic,” he said. “He’s great for New Zealand and he’s politically sensible, but he doesn’t do anything for the tourism sector.”
‘passionate hermit kingdom’
According to border plans announced by Chris Hipkins COVID-19 Response Minister on Wednesday, New Zealand with fully vaccinated Australians will be allowed entry without self-isolation from 17 January, and New Zealanders from other countries will be able to enter from 14 February. Completely vaccinated. international visitors will be able to enter from April 30, but will have to self-isolate for seven days.
Although New Zealand’s strict COVID-19 policy is widely accepted by the public, there are growing signs of disagreement.
Earlier this month, thousands of people took to the streets in Wellington protest vaccination orders and locks.
Although far ahead of rivals, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s approval rating has dropped significantly in the early days of the pandemic. In September, John Key, a former rival of the National Party, warned in a newspaper that the country must learn to live with COVID-19 and could not exist as a “hermit kingdom of the kingdom”.
Michael Plank, a COVID-19 modeler at the University of Canterbury, who advised the New Zealand government, said that despite the frustration in the tourism sector, most New Zealanders accepted a precaution to ease border restrictions.
“We are still moving away from our previous removal strategy by managing a transition, through the ongoing expansion of the vaccine, towards‘ more normal COVID, ’” Plank said. “Many parts of New Zealand are still free of COVID. This will not last forever, but it is worth preserving in the short term because we are still vaccinated.”
“We also need to be vigilant about new variants that may be of concern,” Plank added. “Border measures can be a key tool to protect against a new variant that can prevent vaccination.”
For tourism-dependent companies, the isolation of New Zealand has gone too far. Haka Turismo was also able to sell several properties to stay afloat, Lawrence believes many businesses won’t last much longer.
“In the last four months, if they’ve taught me anything, they change their minds once a week,” he said.
“We are using the same methods and tools that we had in March 2020 and we are not adapting and changing as COVID adapts and changes. I don’t think there is anything to be proud of.”