NZ finally welcomes back tourists as pandemic rules eased

New Zealand is now welcoming tourists from the US, Canada, Britain, Japan and more than 50 other countries for the first time in more than two years after dropping most of its remaining pandemic border restrictions.
The country has long been renowned for its breathtaking scenery and adventure tourism offerings such as bungy jumping and skiing.
Before the spread of COVID-19, more than 3 million tourists visited each year, accounting for 20 per cent of New Zealand’s foreign income and more than 5 per cent of the overall economy.
AJ Hackett Bungy jump over Queenstown, in New Zealand’s South Island. (Nine / Stuart Quinn)

But international tourism stopped altogether in early 2020 after New Zealand imposed some of the world’s toughest border restrictions.

The border rules remained in place as the government at first pursued an elimination strategy and then tried to tightly control the spread of the virus.

The spread of Omicron and vaccinations of more than 80 per cent of New Zealand’s 5 million population prompted the gradual easing of restrictions.

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Most tourists from India, China and other non-waiver countries are still not allowed to enter.

Tourists will need to be vaccinated and to test themselves for the virus before and after arriving.

The border reopening will help boost tourism ahead of New Zealand’s upcoming ski season.

But the real test of how much the tourism industry rebounds will come in December, when the peak summer season begins in the Southern Hemisphere nation.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said more than 90,000 people had booked flights to New Zealand in the seven weeks since the reopening was announced and 21 international flights were scheduled to land Monday in Auckland.

Ms Ardern said there were no immediate plans to ease virus testing and vaccination requirements for tourists.

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