New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will begin a billion-dollar sales pitch to Australians, hoping for a big flow of visitors once the trans-Tasman bubble opens.
On Tuesday, Ms Ardern announced quarantine-free flights for Australians would be allowed from April 19.
This means Sunshine Coast residents may soon be able to fly directly to the Land of the Long White Cloud, with Air New Zealand already selling flights from June.
Sunshine Coast Airport is also pushing to make direct flights to NZ happen all year round rather than the current winter seasonal escape.
Ms Ardern’s decision brings New Zealand into line with Australia’s border settings, and means people can flow freely between the two countries for the first time since the onset of COVID-19.
Ms Ardern posted a video on Instagram on Tuesday night, inviting expats home and Australians to visit.
“If you are in Australia – you might be a Kiwi over there, or you may have whanau or friends here, or you may just wish to visit us – come on over!” she said cheerily.
“Come and see us. New Zealand is a beautiful country and one of the things we miss the most is our ability to share it with you.
“We’d love to see you.”
The decision was green-lit by government health officials and welcomed by opposition parties, scientific experts and business groups.
The industry which stands the most to gain is tourism, which minister Stuart Nash said contracted by 16 per cent in 2020.
Relieved Tourism Industry Aotearoa boss Chris Roberts said businesses “can now take bookings with confidence and scale up their staffing”.
“It also means marketing campaigns to the Aussies can go ahead,” he said.
Aussie tourists have always contributed the lion’s share of visitors to New Zealand.
More than 1.5 million Australians travelled to Aotearoa in 2019, the last year uninterrupted by COVID-19, spending a collective $NZ 2.74 billion ($2.5 billion), representing more than a quarter of NZ’s total international tourist take.
After receiving estimates the bubble could be worth up to $NZ2 billion ($1.84 billion) this year, Ms Ardern will kick off her pitch to Australians on Wednesday with a round of breakfast TV interviews.
“The first thing that I will say is that we are safe, and we cannot underestimate how important it is in this COVID-19 world,” she said.
“Secondly, we’re fast approaching ski season. I know that’s something that Australians love to partake in and that’s rapidly coming upon us.
“Even if you’re not a skier, I cannot begin with a list of beautiful places that we have to visit.
“It is ultimately a change of scene that so many have been looking for … now you have the option, come and see us.”