THE BORDERS of New Zealand have been fully reopened for the first time since March 2020 when they were shut in an effort to curb the spread of Covid-19.
The prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, said the nation was “open for business” after the final stage of the phased reopening, which began in April, was completed on Sunday night.
Visitors from all over the world will once again be allowed into New Zealand, including maritime arrivals, those on student visas and those from non-visa waiver countries, such as China and India.
Most visitors will still need to be fully vaccinated, but there are no quarantine requirements.
New Zealand first announced a phased reopening plan in February. It allowed vaccinated citizens to return from Australia that month, and those coming from elsewhere to return in March.
Then, in May, it started to welcome tourists from more than 50 countries on a visa-waiver list.
"It’s been a staged and cautious process on our part since February as we, alongside the rest of the world, continue to manage a very live global pandemic, while keeping our people safe," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday.
"But keeping people safe extends to incomes and wellbeing too. And as a value added exporting country which depends on consumers around the world choosing our products to ensure our economic security, our key message is that we are open for business.
“Globally there is pent up demand for people to visit New Zealand. In January, 58% of Australians who would like to visit New Zealand wanted to come within six months of borders opening. This number is even higher for our American target market, at 77% and we’re ready for them,” said Tourism Minister Stuart Nash.
Immigration Minister Michael Wood also noted how the international education sector was worth several billion dollars to the country and education providers.
"While we’ve continued to support the sector with border exceptions through the pandemic, the full resumption of visa processing is great news for our universities, polytechnics and wānanga, and schools, English language schools, and private training establishments.
“As we warmly welcome the world back to our shores, it’s the perfect time to showcase New Zealand to the world,” Michael Wood said.
Tourism was one of the industries hardest hit by New Zealand's tough Covid measures.
In the year ending March 2021, the industry's contribution to the GDP dropped to 2.9%, from 5.5% the year before.
International tourism took an especially big hit, plunging 91.5% - or NZ$16.2bn ($10.2bn; £8.4bn) - to NZ$1.5bn, according to official data.
The number of people directly employed in tourism also fell by over 72,000 during this period.