Air New Zealand and travel agencies have reported a surge in overseas bookings since the announcement of border reopenings.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Thursday that New Zealand will reopen to fully vaccinated travelers from around the world in five stages in 2022, starting at 11:59 p.m. on February 27 with New Zealanders in Australia.
As well as allowing stranded Kiwis to return, the removal of the requirement for most arrivals to enter Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ) will make overseas travel a viable option for many first-time Kiwis. since the borders closed in March 2020.
House of Travel chief operating officer Brent Thomas said the travel agency had seen “a real spike” in inquiries and bookings since the announcement, even with prices higher than they weren’t before the pandemic.
“It may come as a surprise to people, but it’s not just Australia either. A significant number of the bookings are for Europe and the UK, so I think what that reflects is that there has been significant pent-up demand.Much of the first batch of travelers will be visiting friends and relatives – people from whom they have been separated for two years or more.
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Flight Center Travel Group NZ chief product officer Victoria Courtney said inquiries on Thursday were 75 per cent higher than the previous day. In-store bookings increased by more than 60%, with the most popular international destinations – other than the Cook Islands – including London, Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne.
“Also, we had reservations for Mumbai and Delhi,” she said. “We expect there to be a little hesitation from the public, given that the reopening plan has already been changed by the government, but we expect traveler confidence to increase once again. February 28.
“We have a lot of clients desperate to reconnect with family and friends, and many are hanging around for vacations abroad.”
Air New Zealand said in a tweet on Thursday afternoon that more than 8,000 international seats had been booked since the border was announced.
“The Kiwis are eager to return and we are ready to welcome them,” the airline wrote. He was unable to provide an update on the numbers on Friday.
Thomas said flights to and from accommodation in some destinations are already hard to come by as travelers from other parts of the world have already booked.
“The rest of the world is already open and traveling, so availability in certain key markets at certain times could potentially be problematic. Hawaii, for example, is a very popular destination in many parts of the world. It starts to fill up at key times of the year which is interesting because we’re thinking ‘oh we can start traveling now so we can start booking’. But the reality is that other people have been able to travel for a long time already.
International business travel bookings have also started to arrive, with many wanting to travel at a “fairly short notice, which indicates pent-up demand,” Thomas said.
“It’s expected to continue to grow and people will also start booking further.”
Thomas said international airfares are higher than they were before the pandemic, in part due to the limited number of airlines now flying passengers to and from New Zealand.
“The era of ‘cheap plane tickets’ to Europe will not be here in the short term and that’s simply because it’s a supply and demand type equation. However, airlines don’t make money if they don’t fly their planes, and part of that is stimulating demand by offering good prices. We therefore expect prices to continue to move south; to improve as the ability returns.
“But to be fair to the airlines, prices will be higher than before because the cost of running an airline has gone up. Fuel prices have gone up dramatically and the cost of living has gone up.
Thomas said more airlines are unlikely to return to New Zealand as passengers until travelers are no longer required to self-isolate. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Thursday that fully vaccinated arrivals are expected to spend 10 days in self-isolation initially and seven days when New Zealand transitions to phase two of the three-phase public health response to Omicron.
“The problem we have is that supply is going to be limited while there is a self-isolation requirement for inbound tourism. And that’s because people won’t want to come to New Zealand as a tourist and then spend 10 or even seven days in isolation. »
Thomas said he does not expect airline capacity to increase significantly until self-isolation is removed or reduced to one day.
Still, Thomas is optimistic that more Kiwis will book overseas trips. Many, he said, have saved up a significant amount of money during the pandemic and will be eager to spend it on travel.
“There are a lot of people who used to travel abroad fairly regularly and couldn’t. What we will see – and what we are already starting to see – are requests from people who want to take a better vacation. They could stay in a five-star hotel rather than a four-star one.
“It is certain that the duration of certain journeys will also be a little longer. It won’t just be a hasty return to the UK to see family and friends. People will spend an extra week there just to make sure they travel with all the parents.