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New Zealand reopens border to international tourists

International travellers from more than 50 countries including the UK can visit New Zealand for the first time in more than two years after the country dropped most of its pandemic border restrictions.

The first vaccinated foreign tourists, other than Australians, have been able to arrive for the first time since the nation shut its international border in early 2020.

More than three million tourists visited New Zealand each year prior to the Covid crisis, accounting for 20% of the country’s foreign income and more than five per cent of the overall economy.

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 in Auckland yesterday (Monday).

Ardern told the New Zealand Morning Report programme it would take time to get back to pre-pandemic tourist levels, but it was time some tourist attractions were managed differently than they were in the past.

However, she ruled out a cap on tourist numbers, saying it was about managing experiences.

Ardern said businesses were in talks with officials about making sure “we are offering a quality experience for tourists”.

“And there are parts of the country, particularly our natural environment, where people came to enjoy it and let’s be honest, it was heavily congested, and in some parts not necessarily offering what we would have expected as a nation,” she said.

“So Milford is an example of where there’s been some work together with the local community and tourism operators around how to ensure that the experience there has the lowest impact possible and is a high-quality experience.”

Tourism minister Stuart Nash, who greeted arrivals at the airport, said: “People haven’t seen each other for a long, long time – family and friends.

“Today is a day to celebrate, and is a big moment in our reconnection with the world.”

  • Holland America Line has opened bookings for a season of new itineraries by Westerdam in anticipation of ports in Australia and New Zealand fully welcoming cruise ships back.

The new sailings, between September 25 and March 13 next year, cover both countries and south-east Asia.

The ship will reposition from North America after an extended Alaska season to run itineraries from Sydney or between Sydney and Auckland.

Chief commercial officer Beth Bodensteiner said: “The pent-up demand for cruises to Australia and New Zealand led us to the decision that it would be valuable to have Westerdam sail these unique itineraries that include some uncommon ports for us.

“We have the utmost optimism that the entire region will be back to cruising come fall, and our guests have been waiting two years to take their dream cruise.

“These new itineraries give guests a lot to choose from as they explore this part of the world.”

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