New Zealand welcomes tourists from the US, UK, Canada, Japan and more than 50 other countries for the first time in two years.
New Zealand has reopened its borders to travelers from the United States, Canada, Japan and more than 50 other countries for the first time in more than two years.
Tourism Minister Stuart Nash said thousands of people were expected to land in New Zealand on Monday.
“Today is a day to celebrate and it is a great moment in our reconnection with the world,” he said.
Before the spread of COVID-19, more than three million tourists visited New Zealand each year, accounting for 20% of the country’s foreign earnings and more than 5% of the overall economy.
But international tourism came to a complete halt in early 2020 after New Zealand imposed some of the world’s toughest border restrictions.
Border rules remained in place as the government first pursued a phase-out strategy and then sought to strictly control the spread of the virus.
The spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus and vaccinations for more than 80 per cent of New Zealand’s five million people prompted the gradual relaxation of restrictions.
New Zealand reopened to tourists from Australia three weeks ago and on Monday to some 60 visa-waiver countries, including much of Europe.
Most tourists from India, China and other countries that are not exempt are still not allowed to enter.
Tourists will need to be vaccinated and tested for the virus after arrival.
At Auckland airport, flights bringing tourists began landing early in the morning, arriving directly from places like Los Angeles, San Francisco, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.
The reopening of the border will help boost tourism ahead of New Zealand’s upcoming ski season. But the real test of how much the tourism industry is recovering will come in December, when the southern hemisphere nation’s peak summer season kicks off.