New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Wednesday the nation will reopen its borders once again – months earlier than originally set.
The country will allow fully vaccinated Australians to enter from 11.59pm on 12 April, and visitors will not need to isolate.
“We’re ready to welcome the world back,” Ardern said. “Now that we’re highly vaccinated and predicted to be off our Omicron peak, it’s now safe to open up.”
New Zealand will also welcome back fully vaccinated visitors from “visa-waiver” nations including the US, the UK, Japan, Singapore and Germany from midnight 1 May.
Travellers will still need to present a negative COVID-19 test before departure, and two rapid antigen tests within a week of arrival but will not need to isolate.
New Zealand has continually relaxed its reopening timetable and requirements in recent weeks. In February, it said tourists wouldn’t be able to return until July, though did hint that was a worst-case scenario.
Auckland Airport said there are currently 13 airlines flying to 25 destinations from New Zealand, down from 29 airlines connecting to 43 international destinations pre-pandemic.
Overall, international traveller numbers at the airport have fallen more than 90 per cent to 2,900 per day, down from 30,000 per day pre-COVID.
It’s hoped the announcement will spur the return of more airlines to the region.
“While the reopening of New Zealand’s border won’t be a big bang and we think it will take time for passenger flows to recover, we are very optimistic about the future,” said Auckland’s chief executive, Carrie Hurihanganui.
“Auckland Airport is excited to welcome back travellers from Australia. With the reopening of quarantine-free travel from 13 April and the upcoming school holidays, we know there will be demand from those wanting to grab a flight and reunite with friends and family across the Tasman.”
Air New Zealand’s chief executive, Greg Foran, said the last two years had been “extremely turbulent” for people.
“Pre-COVID-19, Australia was the largest tourism market for both our airline and New Zealand,” he said. “We know a lot of tourism operators have been missing international visitors so we’re looking forward to playing our role in New Zealand’s recovery.
“On our long-haul network, we’re seeing particular interest in journeys from North America around the July holiday period. It’s a sign that tourists still have New Zealand at the top of their bucket list.”
The airline said it has added more than 50 flights per week on its 15 international routes and will adjust capacity to meet demand in the coming months.