Tourism update: How is New Zealand going with our travel bubbles?Posted on 27/05/2021 by Hayley Clark
Thanks to our successful management of the virus, and that of our neighbours across the Tasman, we’ve been able to create one of the first quarantine-free travel bubbles in the world.
It has now been a little over a month since New Zealand’s travel bubble with Australia opened, and a week since the beginning of the bubble with the Cook Islands.
So how is it going? And what does it all mean for the tourism industry?
More entries than exits
One of the first pieces of news to come out after the Australian bubble opened was that there were more people arriving in New Zealand than leaving.
According to Tourism Industry Aotearoa, this has been a ratio of three entries to every two departures. In real terms, this was approximately 30,000 people arriving, and 20,000 leaving over the first nine days of the bubble.
As expected, many of these early arrivals were reunions of friends and family who had been separated since the lockdowns, but TIA Chief Executive Chris Roberts says he hopes that the early success will encourage more people to visit for tourism purposes.
“Many of our Australian neighbours will be needing an adventure by now, and it’s great to see some are already heading over to enjoy themselves,” he said.
A weekend of travel and gatherings
The first weekend of the trans-Tasman bubble saw the massive Six60 concert that made headlines around the world as 50,000 people attended at Eden Park.
For tourism operators and businesses, the weekend saw a boom in demand for services, for hotel rooms in Auckland and even tours in Rotorua.
For Mark Quickfall of Totally Tourism in Queenstown, he didn’t see a tourist influx right away, but has received “a lot of bookings” for winter activities such as heli-skiing for July and August.
A 4,000% surge in searches for Cook Islands travel
As soon as the bubble was announced for the Cook Islands, Flight Centre saw a 4,100% increase in searches for deals practically overnight.
This was joined by searches for resorts, what to pack, and the best time to go, all indicating a huge uptick in interest in travel to the tropical destination.
Additionally, Air New Zealand said that there were thousands of flights booked on the day that the bubble was announced.
As much as Kiwis have loved exploring our own backyard, it seems we’re also keen to enjoy some international travel as well!
The tourism industry is crying out for staff
While the initial lockdowns and halt in travel saw the tourism industry as a whole lose jobs, it is now crying out to hire staff back to meet new demand from the bubbles.
When Tourism Industry Aotearoa (TIA) surveyed tourism businesses in New Zealand, they found that 22% of respondents were not confident that they would meet their staffing needs as international travellers return. Businesses in the main centres – Auckland, Queenstown, and Canterbury – were most affected.
“Three-quarters of respondents said the Tasman bubble was important for their business survival,” TIA Chief Executive Chris Roberts says. “However, the biggest impediment to recovery, selected by almost two-third of respondents, is availability of staff.”
A bright future ahead
When asked about how their businesses would be going five years from now, three-quarters of tourism operators said they expect to doing either the same as they were before the pandemic, or even better.
These results were found during the Tourism Industry Aotearoa Covid-19 Tourism Industry Survey, and showed that even as the industry begins to recover from the downturn, there is still plenty of positivity for the future.
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