New Zealand’s borders fully reopened to visitors from around the world on Monday, for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic closed them in March 2020.
- New Zealand will welcome all international travelers from July 31
- Jacinda Arden says the final stages included welcoming back those on student visas and letting cruise ships and foreign yachts dock in the country
- The country imposed some of the world’s strictest border controls when COVID-19 first hit
The country started reopening in February, first for New Zealanders returning home, and restrictions have progressively eased.
The process of reopening the borders ended last night with visitors who need visas and those on student visas now also allowed to return.
New Zealand is now also letting cruise ships and foreign recreational yachts dock at its ports.
International students were a significant contributor to New Zealand’s economy and educational providers are hoping the reopening of the borders will again provide a boost to schools and universities around the country.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday during a speech at the China Business Summit in Auckland that the final staged opening of the borders had been an enormous moment.
“It’s been a staged and cautious process on our part since February as we, alongside the rest of the world, continue to manage a very live global pandemic, while keeping our people safe.”
Opening provides relief for Australia
Pre-COVID, Australia and New Zealand citizens had enjoyed free movement between the two countries since the 1920s.
But for the past two years, New Zealand imposed some of the world’s strictest border controls, which led to headaches for the hundreds of thousands of NZ citizens living in Australia.
As of mid-2018, there were an estimated 568,0000 New Zealand-born people residing in Australia — representing the fourth-largest migrant community.
Economically, tourism was New Zealand’s largest export industry and a huge proportion of their tourists were Australians before the pandemic hit.
Almost one in 10 New Zealanders were directly employed in tourism and there were 1.5 million arrivals from Australia — accounting for 40 per cent of international visitors to NZ in 2019 — who spent some $NZ2.7 billion ($2.5 billion).
And it went both ways — New Zealanders were the second largest market for visitor arrivals into Australia in 2019.
New Zealand has been slowly reopening, first to Australians in March and then to tourists from the US, Britain and more than 50 other countries in May.