When New Zealand finally announced plans for the return of international tourists this week, Eve Lawrence, general manager of Auckland Hakka Tourism Group, could not find any reason to celebrate.
After the border closures in the past two years have reduced business to a trickle, Lawrence will have to wait at least another five months Welcome overseas customersEven so, tourists must self-isolate at home for 7 days-Lawrence believes this requirement will prevent many people from coming.
Lawrence said: “We have lost the summer this year, and we may lose it next summer because we rely on the long preparation time people have to come to New Zealand-I mean it’s a long way to go,” Lawrence said, adding she Travel agencies and airlines are not expected to promote New Zealand in this situation.
“They will not sell New Zealand, they will delete us from the brochure.”
Lawrence said her company’s revenue fell by about 95% during the pandemic and is now preparing for the six-month business that may be the most difficult in history.
“The past 21 months have been absolutely difficult,” she said.
New Zealand’s decision to close its borders in March 2020 helped the country be largely free of COVID-19 throughout the pandemic until the delta outbreak in September forced the authorities to abandon the “zero COVID” elimination strategy.
This South Pacific country has reported fewer than 11,000 COVID-19 cases and only 41 deaths, one of the lowest deaths in the world.
But as most countries except China reopened and tried to coexist with the virus, the country’s strict border policies made it increasingly isolated. Although New Zealand’s economy grew by 2.8% overall in the second quarter, the country’s tourism industry had little respite. Before the pandemic, the industry employed more than 225,000 people and accounted for 20% of exports.
In May of this year, a survey conducted by the Aotearoa tourism industry found that in the past 12 months, tourism companies have laid off an average of 40% of their employees and reduced their income by half.
On Wednesday, the Youth Hostels Association announced that it will permanently close all 11 of its hostels, citing that the prospect of summer tourism recovery is disappearing, and the epidemic has continued “too long for us to survive the storm.”
Brian Westwood, the former chief executive of the Youth Hostel Association, said the border announcement disappointed an industry that was “essentially abandoned” throughout the pandemic.
Westwood said: “It is impossible to predict the impact, because so many companies are private companies and rely on personal finance, remortgage housing and household loans to support.” “For many people, there will be six months without international Tourists and fewer domestic tourists are unbearable.
Our industry is innovative. Our operators are very hardworking and seek many ways to keep their heads clear, but for some people, the rising tide of debt is just too much. “
Westwood said that companies cannot understand why vaccinated New Zealanders are allowed to enter the country since January, but tourists from abroad are not allowed.
“It’s illogical to restrict New Zealanders’ visits,” he said. “It’s great for New Zealanders. It’s also politically savvy, but it doesn’t help the tourism industry in any way.”
“The smug hermit kingdom”
According to the border plan announced by COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins on Wednesday, from January 17th, fully vaccinated New Zealanders in Australia will be allowed to enter without self-isolation, from February 14th Starting to allow New Zealanders from other countries/regions to enter. Fully vaccinated international tourists will be allowed entry from April 30, but must self-quarantine for 7 days.
Although New Zealand’s strict COVID-19 policy has received widespread public support, there are more and more signs of dissatisfaction.
Earlier this month, thousands of people took to the streets of Wellington Protest against vaccine regulations And blockade.
Although still far ahead of her rivals, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s approval rating has fallen sharply from record highs in the early stages of the pandemic. In September, former prime minister John Key from the rival National Party warned in a newspaper column that the country needs to learn to live with COVID-19 and cannot exist as a “smug hermit kingdom”.
Michael Plank, a COVID-19 modeler at the University of Canterbury, who advised the New Zealand government, said that despite the setbacks in the tourism industry, most New Zealanders support a cautious approach. Relax border restrictions.
Planck said: “We are still managing the transition from our previous elimination strategy, through the continuous introduction of vaccines, to a more’COVID normal’ transition.” “There are still no new coronaviruses in many parts of New Zealand. This will not last forever, but It is worth keeping in the short term because we are still vaccinating.”
“We also need to watch out for new variants that may cause concern,” Planck added. “Border measures may be a key tool to prevent potential new variants that may evade the vaccine.”
For companies that rely on tourism, New Zealand’s isolation has lasted too long. Although Haka Tourism can sell some properties to make ends meet, Lawrence believes that many businesses will not survive for long.
“For the past four months, if it taught me anything, they would change their minds every other week,” she said.
“We are using the same methods and the same tools as in March 2020, but we have not been able to adapt and change as COVID adapts and changes. I think this is nothing to be proud of.”