Jul 12, 2021

Update on the State of Travel to New Zealand

This focus of this blog post is to provide a quick update as to the status of travel to New Zealand and thoughts as to when visitors will be able to visit. As a quick background note, the country took a tolerance policy toward Covid early in the pandemic and has not allowed any foreigners into the country since. Kiwis are allowed to return, but must undergo 14-days of quarantine whether they are vaccinated or not, prior to then allowing to travel within the country. While a "travel bubble" has taken place with Australia at times (allowing Aussies and Kiwis to freely move between countries) recent cases of Covid in Australia has since placed a pause, or "popped" if you will, the travel bubble to specific States.

Notes for New Zealand and where it stands pertaining to Covid and travel:

  • The Pfizer vaccine is the only approved vaccine by the NZ government
  • As New Zealand does not produce the vaccine, it is dependent upon other sources to provide shipments of the vaccine.
  • Shipments of the vaccine were not prioritized by the NZ government initially, and thus the country has had to wait to receive shipments- vaccines have gone to other "hot spots" in the world and those countries which paid for priority access.
  • Currently (July, 2021) about 17% of the country has received one shot and 11% of Kiwis are fully vaccinated. This is roughly in line with Australia, Ecuador, Belize, Argentina and Peru in terms of percentage of the population.

Support for Businesses in New Zealand

  • Tourism in New Zealand has shifted from focus on International markets to attracting domestic travelers (Kiwis spending money in New Zealand) and Australia. The travel bubble "popping" in the winter (July) hurts the ski fields on the South Island but little rest of the country.
  • The NZ government has provided grants to the largest tourism operations. Unfortunately, however little has been given to the smaller B&Bs and boutique operations. These will suffer the most while those which handle large swaths of tourists are supported. Thus there has been little pushback from the Tourism industry which would (normally one would think) have a voice.

What will it take to open the borders?

  • This is a very tough thing to answer. The Ardern administration has taken a hard line against any Covid from getting across the border. Contrary to some recent talk in Australia surrounding living with Covid as an endemic once a certain threshold of the population has been achieved.
  • Once the population has been vaccinated to the point of "herd immunity" there is no guarantee that the border will open to the United States. The pacific islands countries and China have been banded about as some of the first to rejoin New Zealand due to the ability to vaccinate large portions of the population, while any news of Covid in the USA is perceived as allowing the virus to continue to "rage."
  • There is little pushback by the average Kiwi to open the border, as they perceive life as normal within the country- attending sporting matches and concerts, etc. That these are also attended at full capacity in other parts of the world where the virus continues to "rage" (i.e. Wimbledon, Euro 2021, NBA Finals, etc.) seems to be of little interest.
Author: Frank Krieger