Coronavirus: Holidaying Kiwis represent tiny sliver of international travellers, new figures show
Kiwi holidaymakers are among the prime targets of the Government’s Covid-19 border hotel charging scheme, yet new figures show they only represent a tiny sliver of people still travelling internationally.
Stats NZ numbers released to Stuff show just 360 New Zealand citizens and permanent residents departed and returned from overseas between March 20 and June 1, each citing ‘’holiday/vacation’' or ‘’visiting friends/relatives’’ as the main reason for crossing the border.
However, if the co-payment system was in place over this period, the most the taxpayer could have recouped from this group was $1.1 million.
For almost half of this group of travellers (135 people), the most common destination was Australia – where several states have since restricted incoming passengers numbers to the spread of the virus.
* Coronavirus: Government considering charging returning Kiwis $3000 for quarantine stay, same fee as National proposed
* Coronavirus: National keen to charge returning Kiwis $3000 for their quarantine
* Air NZ, Singapore Airlines restrict passenger numbers to NZ as more Kiwis fly home to escape Covid
Others enjoyed lengthy spells across the Tasman, with 102 spending more than 22 days away.
While 36 people visited the Covid-free Cook Islands, and other realm countries including Samoa (60), Tonga (36) and Fiji (3), scores of others have headed off further afield including Ireland, Singapore, United States, United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Thailand and Japan.
The charging system – which will require new legislation to be passed – was designed to recoup some of the costs associated with housing international travellers in the country’s network of 32 managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) facilities.
Flight Centre New Zealand general manager product Victoria Courtney said while there hadn’t been a spike in cancellations as a result of the co-payment announcement, “it’s certainly a deterrent to book, on top of safety concerns of leaving our Covid-19-free hub”.
“We have been getting a lot of inquiries from customers about the likelihood of having to pay for managed isolation on return since this was first warned by [the] Government some time ago.
“And we have been careful to warn them of this possibility before booking,” Courtney said.
The decision to charge those holidaying overseas was widely foreshadowed by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Housing Minister Megan Woods, the minister overseeing MIQ facilities, in the lead-up to Wednesday’s announcement.
“For people choosing to leave New Zealand for overseas holidays or business trips from now on, it's only fair they contribute to the cost of their isolation when they return,” Woods said.
Once it comes into force, the scheme was likely to generate a paltry $10m of the $479m the Government has set aside for isolation costs this year, Woods said, with several returning New Zealanders able to apply for exemptions.
As of Thursday, 32,636 people had been through MIQ facilities since March 26, 13,209 of them since June 17.
Overseas travel has been reduced to a whimper with the advent of Covid-19, with border restrictions and widespread flight cancellations causing arrival and departure numbers to plummet.
Like many countries globally, New Zealand has implemented stringent border control measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19 by stopping foreign tourists from entering the country indefinitely.
The combined number of arrivals and departures was 15,900 in May – the lowest for any month since May 1959. In contrast, almost 1 million people crossed the border in May last year.
Kiwis are advised not to travel overseas “due to the outbreak of Covid-19, associated health risks and widespread travel restrictions,” the Government’s Safe Travel website reads.
“Due to the difficulty travellers are experiencing returning home, New Zealanders overseas need to take steps to stay safely where they are and shelter in place. Countries and territories around the world are imposing strict travel restrictions. Many air routes are no longer viable,” the advisory adds.
It was important customers were aware of the complications of international travel, Courtney said.
“There are still flights being moved or cancelled frequently as governments try to manage the influx of passengers in and out of isolation facilities. In addition, transits and connections can be tricky to manage – it’s not just your end destination that you need to watch out for,” Courtney said.
Source : Stuff.co.nz