Almost every day we are being asked by anxious travellers when they can come to New Zealand. Without exception they are admiring of how this country has weathered Covid and fully expect us to have a solution for vaccinated travel to New Zealand right now, let alone in 2022.
Our response has been that despite positive media overseas, government here is not as competent as they think and not friendly to business, let alone tourism. Furthermore our own vaccination rates here are so low and so slow as to be embarrassing. We are not aware of any plan to allow vaccinated travellers into the country and at this stage only have a vague promise of "something" happening in January 2022.
We then explain that so far, this government's style has been to say no no no no no no and then suddenly throw things open with no warning usually based on political pressure. For us in long haul luxury travel where lead times are typically 6-12 months that's not terribly helpful.
So in terms of advising people as to what will happen in 2022, we really are looking into a crystal ball. So, what do we see?
- borders with Australia are finally open and every day they remain open helps convince a particular sector of our population that tourism won't bring the bubonic plague to New Zealand. This means less political pressure to remain closed on our government
- business has mobilised to help underperforming ministers understand some basics, which is increasing political pressure to not choke the economy quite so hard. This in turn is putting political pressure on opening
- government has tried to dodge making a decision by mentioning that 2022 date. This is becoming harder for them now
Based on the above, we believe government intends to open international borders to vaccinated travellers from specific countries (Australia, US and China were recently mentioned). ((What China is doing in the line-up when people are talking about sustainability I have no idea. They must have some powerful patrons...)) around March 2022. They may bow to pressure and open in January 2022. They may astonish us all and give tourism a helping hand by opening in November 2021.
So what does that mean for you as a traveller?
- it's a bet, so take insurance
- the high-end tourism industry in New Zealand has been hit hard and won't be returning deposits as readily as they did at the start of the pandemic, so make sure your insurance is comprehensive
- Christmas/New Year 2022 is almost full already in high-end New Zealand, so you may have already missed the boat
- If you are risk averse, at least plan an itinerary so when the floodgates open you may have a headstart