March 16, 2022 | By Bronwen Largier

Free flowing travel for double vaccinated Australian citizens and permanent residents to New Zealand will begin at one minute to midnight on April 12, with travellers from 60 other countries in New Zealand’s visa waiver program to follow at the start of May.

The announcement earlier today will effectively restart business events travel into New Zealand.

Visa waiver countries include key business events markets like the USA, the UK, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, the UAE and most of Europe. Travellers from these countries will be granted quarantine-free entry into New Zealand from 11:59pm May 1.

Countries like China and Russia are not on the visa waiver list, but may be able to enter the country if they hold a valid visa.

“We have now received guidance that it is safe to significantly bring forward the next stage of border reopening work to welcome back our tourists,” said New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern when making the announcement.

“In doing so we are sending a very clear message that we are accelerating our economic recovery.

“Closing our border was one of the first actions we took to stop COVID-19 over two years ago and its reopening will spur our economic recovery throughout the remainder of the year.

“In February this year when we announced our border reopening plans, we also said the dates could change as we experienced our own Omicron wave and looked to come out the other side.

“That is now the situation we find ourselves in.

“That means we can plan with greater certainty, with the comfort of knowing the impact of these changes are safe and manageable. In short, we’re ready to welcome the world back.

“In particular I look forward to welcoming back our trans-Tasman travellers who have historically made up 40 percent of our international arrivals – around 1.5 million Australians,” said Ardern.

New Zealand business event industry association, Business Events Industry Aotearoa (BEIA), welcomed the border reopening announcement swiftly.

“This is the message our international customers needed to hear. We anticipate between 50 to 60 business events with international attendees will now be able to proceed with confidence this year, bringing vital export revenue and cash flow back to the sector,” said BEIA Chief Executive Lisa Hopkins.

“This is a moment for reflection on a tumultuous two years, and celebration for everyone in the events, tourism, accommodation, travel and hospitality sectors who we have worked alongside.”

While applauding the announcement Hopkins cautioned there was still important steps to be taken to help the business events industry recover in New Zealand.

“As we see it, the mahi (work) isn’t finished. There are a couple of critical issues, vital to our sector, which still need to be addressed,” she said.

“The first is the need for the government to indicate when we can expect a shift in the Covid Protection Framework from Red to Green. We understand that can’t happen right now in the midst of the Omicron peak, but we are keen to ensure this is uppermost in the government’s thinking.”

With New Zealand’s traffic light system currently parked at red, events are limited to a maximum of 100 people.

“The second is the process for attendees and visitors to enter the country,” said Hopkins.

“This needs to be refined, as currently, it is cumbersome and not fit for purpose.

“We join with other sectors, such as Hospitality New Zealand, to call for the elimination of Vaccine Passes soon. They have done their job brilliantly, but now, with the majority of New Zealanders vaccinated and fully vaccinated travellers only allowed into the country, passes will become redundant.

“The desire to return to face-to-face events is clear, and already we are hearing conversations with future international business customers have begun. The business events sector can now begin its recovery as we start the journey to rebuild, re-hire and re-energise our industry,” she said.