Quarantine-free travellers to begin arriving in New Zealand – Expert Reaction

For the first time in over a year, large numbers of international visitors will be allowed to enter New Zealand without spending two weeks in quarantine.

The trans-Tasman travel bubble opens on Monday, with a traffic-light system in place to respond to any outbreaks.

The SMC asked experts to comment how international travellers will affect NZ’s psychology and tourism. We previously asked experts to comment on the bubble’s health aspects. Feel free to use these comments in your reporting or follow up with the contact details provided.

Jacqui Maguire, Registered Clinical Psychologist, comments:

“I think New Zealanders will have complex feelings around the trans-Tasman bubble opening. You’ll have some individuals that will be happy – from a trade perspective, for getting the economy going, and those that have family members in Australia. I think there will be a portion of society that are excited about it, and have a bit of relief that some sense of normalcy is coming back.

“I think we’ll then have a portion of society that’s very hesitant – thinking ‘this is too soon, we don’t want to throw away all of our hard work’.

“And I think there will be a third group that have family members in other countries, or those that are stuck overseas and can’t get back, or people on working visas. They may feel a sense of unjustness or unfairness around letting Australians into New Zealand.

“It’s our perception that ignites anxiety, rather than the facts. Australia currently has fewer Covid-19 cases than Auckland. When you look at the risk factor, opening up to Australia – as epidemiologist Michael Baker has said – is no different from Aucklanders coming down to Queenstown. But it’s our perception, and I think our perception is now that we’re breaking our safety of the ‘team of 5 million’, and I think that’s where the worry and hesitancy will come from. I think we’ll see a small portion of people that will jump on a flight and go, but my hunch is the majority of the population will take a ‘see how it goes’ approach.”

No conflict of interest declared.

Dr Ian de Terte, Senior Lecturer/Clinical Psychologist, School of Psychology, Massey University, comments:

“Frontline workers on the border will have to deal with an influx of people travelling to New Zealand. So they are going from a small cohort of people coming in through the border to an astounding amount of people and an increase in their workload. There is no right or wrong way to cope – some people will be fine, and others may be more stressed.”

“However, I worry there will be some complacency in border workers, especially those who have been vaccinated. They might think that now they have been vaccinated, things will go back to the way things were before COVID. I do not think we will ever go back to the way things were before. For example, the customs officer on the border, and the biosecurity person with the dog, they have probably been vaccinated, but the people coming in from Australia probably will not have been vaccinated, so there may be some angst from visitors, as the workers do not have signs saying they have been vaccinated.”

“Frontline workers and essential workers should really be models on how to do things for the visitors – in terms of physical distancing and mask wearing.”

Conflict of interest statement: “Ex-member of the New Zealand Police.”

Dr Dougal Sutherland, Clinical Psychologist, Victoria University of Wellington and Umbrella Health, comments:

“I think your reaction to the border opening will depend on your family situation, how much money you have, and your level of anxiety already. If you have family you’ve been desperately hanging out to see, no doubt it will bring a sense of excitement and relief to be able to see them again. If you have a bit of money you might be looking forward to going over to Australia yourself, either for a holiday or to see family.

“But if you’re a bit anxious already, it could bring an increase in concerns around health. Australia’s a whole lot bigger than us, and people could be wondering if they really have it under control, because they do seem to be going in and out of short lockdowns. So I think people’s responses will range from excited to apathetic to anxious, depending on their situation.

“I think a lot of people are seeing it as a return to normalcy, and for some people it will bring financial security which will alleviate some anxiety and worries. For example, people in the tourism industry will be clapping their hands with glee because they can either employ staff or be employed.”

No conflict of interest declared.

Professor C. Michael Hall, Department of Management, Marketing and Entrepreneurship, University of Canterbury, comments:

“The opening of the trans-Tasman bubble will be welcome to many people in aviation and tourism and will eventually provide an economic boost to those regions that have been historically more reliant on Australian leisure travellers.

“It is likely that the first wave of trans-Tasman travel will be dominated primarily by the ‘visiting friends and relations’ market who will be looking to reconnect with family and friends. Business travel should also be given a welcome boost.

“As time goes on we should see increased leisure travel, such as the short-break market to urban centres, reemerge; together with the specialist winter markets, ski trips from Australia to New Zealand, and New Zealanders heading to Queensland and eventually Western Australia in particular to follow the sun.

“As the year goes on the most important factor for the leisure tourism market will clearly be any shutdown in the bubble as a result of a COVID-19 incident. The challenge here from the tourist perspective is not so much the fear of catching COVID, it is the uncertainty that such events would bring into trip planning and the personal economic risk that creates for travellers.

“Longer term the lessons learnt from managing trans-Tasman tourism will also undoubtedly assist in managing departures and arrivals when tourist traffic through important hubs, such as Singapore, is allowed to increase.”

No conflict of interest declared.

Professor Michael Lueck, School of Hospitality & Tourism, AUT University, comments:

“There certainly is some pent-up demand for travel, and Air New Zealand noted that some flights were selling out very quickly for the coming weeks. In particular, the ‘visiting friends and relatives’ market will be stimulated, allowing travellers on both sides of the Tasman to reunite with their loved ones after more than a year.

“Pre-pandemic, Australians accounted for about 40% of international visitors to Aotearoa New Zealand, so they are our most important inbound tourism market. In particular, ski holidays are very popular among Australians, and with the winter season ahead this will provide a much needed boost for New Zealand’s tourism industry. Queenstown and Wanaka will be the main beneficiaries this winter.

“Australians are also keen self-drive tourists; consequently car, campervan and motorhome rental companies as well as campgrounds and holiday parks are expected to see an increase in bookings. This type of holiday also tends to favour places off the beaten track, which means that the regions will also see some activity, and much needed customers.

“Our travel agencies will also start to see more activity, for bookings of New Zealanders heading to the sunny parts of Australia during the winter months. Qantas has added two new city pairs to their network, appealing to these sun seekers: Auckland to the Gold Coast and to Perth.

“Air New Zealand will also serve a new route by flying nonstop between Auckland and Hobart twice a week. This route has been rumoured even prior to the pandemic, and will offer an ideal opportunity for New Zealanders to discover Tasmania, as well as Tasmanians to get to our shores much quicker. In the medium and long term this connection will also offer Tasmanians convenient one-stop connections to the USA and other parts of the world, avoiding the busy hub of Melbourne or Sydney. ”

No conflict of interest declared.

Professor Girish Prayag, College of Business and Law, University of Canterbury, comments:

“The biggest international market for New Zealand is Australia and a trans-Tasman bubble will certainly benefit the tourism industry in both countries. The ‘visiting friends and relatives’ market is lucrative in itself and the bubble will allow this market to pick up very quickly for both countries. For tourism businesses in New Zealand, the trans-Tasman bubble is a silver lining for those who are heavily dependent on international tourists but businesses cannot expect a quick return to normality. The bubble is still fragile and can burst at any time on both sides. The risks and costs for travellers associated with a bubble burst are still unclear. Doing the due diligence and personal safety should still be prime considerations when making the decision to travel during the pandemic.”

No conflict of interest declared.