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Unprecedented government COVID-19 announcement “a shock”

New regulations requiring anyone travelling to New Zealand to self isolate for 14 days has come as a shock to the tourism industry.

The restrictions came into effect at midnight on Sunday, March 15, and people travelling from the Pacific Islands to New Zealand are the only exceptions, unless they show signs of the virus.

As of midnight Saturday, March 14, no cruise ships will dock in New Zealand either.

“The Prime Minister’s announcement has dramatically affected the visitor economy and inbound tourism for the next few months," says Tourism Export Council NZ chair Anna Black.

"The government’s decision was a shock. We were expecting further travel bans on more countries but not a complete blanket call for all visitors and New Zealanders entering the country to be required to self-isolate.

TECNZ accepts the government’s decision is in the best interests for the health and wellbeing of New Zealanders and visitors and appreciate the decision is not just about the tourism sector.

"We support the decision. However, no visitor that has booked to travel to New Zealand from March 15 – 31 will commence travel knowing they will have to self-isolate on arrival."

"The average length of stay for most long-haul visitors is 13-21 days and for short-haul Trans-Tasman visitors, two to five days. The travel restriction impacts on either all or most of a person’s planned New Zealand itinerary. This is the biggest decision we can recall in more than 40 years in business that has such a major impact on the future of tourism in New Zealand," says Anna.

“Our primary concern regarding this decision is the impact on viability for some businesses. Cashflow is tight and businesses were holding off redundancies, in case there was a prospect of getting an uplift in visitors over the next six weeks. That opportunity is now gone.

“Our members are now waiting anxiously on the announcement of government’s wage subsidy and business support program. Those decisions cannot come quickly enough.

"A lot of businesses are facing significant losses as fixed costs continue and revenue streams have been non-existent since February 1, 2020. There is now a very real chance a number of our inbound tour operators, accommodation, activity/attraction and transport operators may have to close their doors. We hope the government’s support package will be substantive enough to help businesses through at least the upcoming six months and until the COVID-19 event settles around the world and normal visitation patterns resume in spring and summer.”

“TECNZ wishes to be solution-orientated and work with government as proactively as we can to help retain New Zealand’s reputation as a great visitor destination, and be part of re-engagement strategies for markets (countries) when they are ready to reopen borders to travel," says Anna.

"Our inbound tour operators operate on a business-to-business basis with offshore tour wholesalers and are able to generate economic activity quickly when travel restrictions are lifted.”

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