a body of water with mountains in the background

It’s official, you won’t be heading to New Zealand anytime this year. Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, briefed media on reopening plans, and while optimism now exists for 2022 travels, anything before the end of the year is officially off the table.

New Zealand will continue to pursue a “zero covid” strategy for the time being, and that means no chance of travel bubbles or open borders until next year, at the earliest. Here’s how the plans stack up…

Mount Cook in New Zealand

New Zealand Quashes 2021 Travel Hopes

If you hoped to visit New Zealand in 2021, those hopes are now quashed, unless you’re a citizen or permanent resident.

New Zealand will begin a phased and tiered reopening of international travel from as early as early 2022, but officials confirm there won’t be any travel before that date, as the country looks to ramp up vaccination efforts through the end of the year. Ardern noted “twists and turns” to come over the next 6 month, as a key reason.

“Our ultimate goal is to get to quarantine-free travel for all vaccinated travelers. And what you can see from today is our direction and ambition is clear.”

Jacinda Ardern, PM, New Zealand

During the briefing, the New Zealand PM noted that travel reopening plans will list countries as low, medium or high risk, with varying level of quarantine and restriction for each.

Any low risk arrivals would be able to enter without quarantine from some point in 2022, but tourist arrivals from both medium and high risk places would face some level of quarantine, which may still involved supervised hotel facilities. No specific countries were listed for any category.

“We cannot keep border restrictions on forever, and to be absolutely clear we don’t want to do that either, and neither do the experts we talk to. Border closures were only ever a temporary measure in order to keep Covid out before a vaccine was developed and administered,”

Jacinda Ardern, PM, New Zealand
Scenic panorama of Cape Brett lighthouse on the coast of New Zealand during sunset. Located in Bay of Islands, popular tourist destination for its natural beauty.

The forthcoming New Zealand approach seems to sound a lot like the “traffic light” approach taken by the United Kingdom – which, by many accounts, may not be the best model to follow, if New Zealand actually wants to attract visitors.

Someone who is classed as a low risk arrival one day, could quickly be reconsidered as medium or high risk on another, which could change a trip from day one enjoyment to thousands spent on a hotel bubble, and not enough vacation time to cover.

Without transparency around the timing and clear reason for any moves, travelers haven’t felt confidence to book destinations which currently feature this approach. UK officials recently simplified rules in an aim to attract more vaccinated visitors.

Simpler “green light” and “red light” systems have been far better received by experts and the general public alike, effectively creating “do” and “don’t” travel lists. Any fully vaccinated visitors coming from trusted countries are “green”, while others from “red” areas would be significantly discouraged.

Sad News For Travelers

New Zealand was growing in popularity through 2019, even taking steps to increase taxes and fees on visitors to offset the impact of growing tourism.

The country has taken an admirable approach to protecting citizens during the covid-19 pandemic, but that also leaves the Pacific nation with few ways of reopening travel on any level, until more absolutes in vaccination and mitigation are achieved.

For people with speculative trips booked for the end of the year, the game is now sadly over, and new hopes must refocus on 2022. New Zealand has now made it clear that it does plan to reopen, but questions will remain as to exactly when, and how, for now.

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1 Comment

  1. This is sooner than I was expecting NZ to open borders at all, honestly. There didn’t seem to be much movement towards it. I wonder how the US will fall in their system by the time their borders open….probably not great.

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