The New Zealand travel sector has experienced a surge in bookings following a government announcement that Covid travel restrictions in the city of Auckland would ease on 15 December.
Travel to and from the city is currently restricted due to Covid measures put in place following a surge in cases of the Delta variant in the city earlier this year.
The easing of travel restrictions was announced by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on 17 November and will allow fully vaccinated people to travel across the Auckland border freely.
However, unvaccinated people will only be able to leave Auckland if they receive a negative Covid test within 72 hours of their departure. There will be no similar restriction on unvaccinated people entering the city.
International borders remain closed
The alleviation of the regional border restriction is expected to provide relief to the New Zealand travel and hospitality sectors, with travellers both visiting and leaving Auckland. However, a full recovery to pre-pandemic levels of travel is unlikely in the new near future, as New Zealand’s country’s international borders currently remain closed due to the government’s coronavirus policy.
“With the signal that we are open for the summer holidays, it means operators can plan to hire staff, buy supplies and gear up their operations over the busiest time of year,” said Tourism Industry Aotearoa Chief Executive, Chris Roberts.
However, he added that he hopes that the government will announce an opening date for New Zealand’s borders soon, saying the country ‘risks being ignored and left out if we don’t signal to international markets very soon when safe travellers will be welcomed back to our shores’.
A surge in travel demand for New Zealand
Travel agency Flight Centre bookings were 300 per cent higher on 17 November than an average day in October, according to online magazine Stuff.
“The most popular domestic destination for November has been Christchurch, but we saw a huge surge in bookings to Queenstown and Auckland yesterday after the Prime Minister’s announcement,” said Flight Centre NZ General Manager for Product, Victoria Courtney. “We can only assume that people are now feeling more confident entering Auckland knowing they can come and go freely with a vaccination certificate or negative Covid-19 test.”
Holiday home company Bachcare also reported a rise in bookings by Aucklanders, up 159 per cent on the day before. According to Bachcare spokesperson Zaina Razzaq, the holiday home site took more bookings on 17 November than it had since June 2020, with the company crediting pent-up demand in the Auckland region.
Meanwhile, airline Air New Zealand saw a rise in website traffic increase by 250 per cent following the announcement, alongside tens of thousands of bookings across its 20 destinations.
The company has reported seeing huge demand originating from Auckland, with prime destinations being targeted by Auckland residents for Christmas breaks including the cities of Wellington, Christchurch, and Queenstown.
“December is gearing up to be a really busy month, with the bulk of bookings made yesterday for the week or two before Christmas,” said Air New Zealand Chief Customer and Sales Officer, Leanne Geraghty.
Auckland was named as best city to visit in Lonely Planet's Best in Travel 2022 in October.