26 November 2021

Tough summer expected for Fiordland as international border opening date set for April

New rules and regulations included in the phased international border reopening could mean many Fiordland tourism businesses won’t survive into next summer, its Business Association chair says.

On Wednesday, Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins announced a three-stage international border reopening plan, which would allow fully vaccinated foreign nationals to enter the country without managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) from April 30.

Instead, they would require a negative pre-departure test, seven days of self-isolation, a negative Covid-19 test on arrival and a final negative test before entering the community.

Those who are unvaccinated or are travelling from very high-risk countries will be required to complete seven days of MIQ followed by three days of self-isolation to enter the country.

New Zealanders will be able to travel to and from Australia from January 17.

Fiordland Business Association chair Nathan Benfell said the border announcement was “one step forward and two steps back”.

International tourists historically accounted for about 80 per cent of Fiordland’s visitors, and tourism businesses had been anxiously awaiting a border re-opening date.

However, the seven-day self-isolation requirement would be a “massive roadblock” for potential business, he said.

“Is the tourist going to come in and want to pay for seven days of doing nothing basically and then do their exploring? I’m concerned about that, and I’m concerned about what the future might look like,” Benfell said.

“On the face of it, it doesn’t seem worth it, not for tourism.”

In the border announcement, Hipkins said the seven-day home isolation period would provide continued safety assurance and would be in place for as long as it was justified on public health grounds.

Surging cases in Europe and other parts of the world meant there was a need to be “very careful”, he said.

However, Benfell was concerned if the seven-day requirement stayed in place for an extended period of time tourism businesses would simply not survive after more than two years with reduced incomes.

“You could see massive amounts of mental health pressures, and you could see a massive amount of businesses fail next winter, and I’m not speaking of businesses just in Te Anau… unless something changes,” he said.

Additionally, the border re-opening date bypassed Fiordland’s busy summer period, which was currently forecast to have lower amounts of domestic tourism than 2020 due to uncertainty around the traffic light system and the cancellation or postponement of major events, he said.

Last week, Flight Centre, Air New Zealand and Bachcare reported a “surge” in summer bookings following the announcement by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern that the cordon around Auckland would fall on December 15.

However, Benfell, who also owns Shakespeare House Bed and Breakfast in Te Anau, had received just a “trickling” of bookings going into January, whilst the Christmas period had remained quiet.

RealNZ chief executive officer Stephen England-Hall also said it had not seen any increase in bookings in Milford Sound, Doubtful Sound, Queenstown, Te Anau or Stewart Island as a result of the Auckland border re-opening, and “really didn’t expect to”.

Published by Stuff.co.nz – 24 November 2021

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