August 12, 2022 | By Bronwen Largier

International visitor arrivals into New Zealand have continued to soar since the country’s borders started reopening for tourism visitation in April, with 94,648 international travellers touching down in June 2022.

Visitor numbers were up 30 per cent in June compared to May. New Zealand’s international border opened to Australian travellers on April 12 and travellers from 60 visa waiver countries at the start of May. The final step in the reopening plan came into effect at the end of July, when double-vaccinated visitors from anywhere in the world were cleared to begin applying for entry into New Zealand.

New Zealand’s tourism minister Stuart Nash said visitors were streaming back faster than expected.

“International visitors are coming back at a strong pace, with American and British visitors’ card spends at 2019 levels,” he said.

“What is also really positive to see is that visitors from the US and UK are staying longer and spending more than in pre-COVID times – despite visitor numbers being far less than 2019, the card spend is back to the same level.

“The hospitality sector will be happy to see that international accommodation guest nights totalled 272,000 for June 2022.

“Hotels have also shown a three-fold increase in guest nights compared to April of this year. I know there is still a ways to go to get back to pre-COVID levels but these numbers show a strong growth in demand and represent a higher-than-anticipated winter tourism season,” said Nash.

The buoyant visitor numbers comes as Air New Zealand announced a slight cut to both its domestic and international services, in order to cope with the impact of COVID on its workforce.

The airline says it will reduce its total seat capacity by 1.5 per cent over the next six months, starting immediately.

“Like many airlines around the world, we’ve been ramping up our operation at a time when COVID and the flu continue to impact the aviation industry,” said Air New Zealand CEO Greg Foran.

“Looking at the disruptions our customers and staff have faced over the past five weeks, we’ve made some adjustments to reduce short-notice cancellations in the months ahead.

“While we did factor sickness into our ramp up plan, we’ve seen the highest rates of crew sickness in over a decade. We see these challenges continuing not just for crew, but for our whole operation, and so we’re making proactive changes to address them.”

Recent levels of illness absenteeism has meant the airline has not been able to have crew on standby, with the slight reduction in flights allowing the carrier to reinstate crew contingencies.

“We’re pulling out all the stops to minimise disruption and provide surety for our customers over the next six months,” said Foran.

“We have rehired or brought on more than 2,000 pilots, airport staff, cabin crew, contact centre and engineers, and we’re going as fast as we can with recruitment and training.”

With the reduction in place, Air New Zealand will be operating at 90 per cent of its pre-COVID capacity both domestically and internationally, after a significant scale-up of services over the last few months.