This evening marks the final step in the Government’s reconnecting plan, with visitors from non-visa waiver countries and international students able to apply for a visa to enter New Zealand.
Today’s change in border settings marks the final milestone for our reconnecting strategy. This is great news to the tourism industry and economy as we approach spring and summer with people from the Northern hemisphere booking their winter holidays. We have heard optimistic messages from tourism operators who are ready to welcome back international visitors from all over the world.
The Government’s $49 million Tourism Kick-start Fund has been put to good use by 481 businesses most affected by the border closure. This fund has helped operators gear up for the return of international visitors.
Globally there is pent up demand for people to visit New Zealand. In January, 58% of Australians who would like to visit New Zealand wanted to come within 6 months of borders opening. This number is even higher for our American target market, at 77%.
Today also marks the opening of the maritime border to cruise ships, specialist vessels and recreational vessels such as ocean-going yachts.
The return of cruise ships is another boost for local communities. Pre-pandemic, their visits were worth in excess of $500 million a year, of which $356 million was spent onshore, providing a valuable economic contribution to our regions.
Most cruise visits are during the warmer months of October to April, and summer is our bumper tourism season overall. This means it will be full steam ahead for the industry who can plan with certainty for the rest of the year and beyond.
The changes in border settings today meant the resumption of key visa categories including students and visitors.
Individuals who are coming to New Zealand to work will primarily use the Accredited Employer Work Visa, which opened on 4 July, to enter the country.
Prior to the pandemic, the international education sector was worth several billion dollars to our country and education providers. While we have continued to support the sector with border exceptions through the pandemic, the full resumption of visa processing is great news for our universities, polytechnics and wānanga, and schools, English language schools, and private training establishments.