Time to get rid of vaccine passes – Hospo NZ

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The earlier opening of the border to Australian and visa-waiver countries before winter is great news that will save many businesses from collapse, says Hospitality New Zealand.

“It’s sensible and safe to open the border at this time, with our high vaccine rate and Omicron in the community meaning there is no additional risk to our communities.

“Opening before winter will be a game changer for so many businesses in the hardest hit tourism regions, such as the southern ski resorts.

“Crucially, they will have time to prepare for the Australian school holidays, though staffing may be an issue for some.

“Australian visitors typically make up 40% of overall visitors to New Zealand. As Tourism Minister Stuart Nash said – ‘We have missed you.’

“It would be good to get clarity around when we will open to tourists from China and India, because it’s important for business to plan ahead of that.

“Auckland will benefit immediately from opening the Australian corridor.

“The city is suffering from the most disruptive period since the pandemic started in 2020 due to various impacts, including illness and close-contact stand-down periods causing to problems in the supply-chain.

“The hit to small hospitality and accommodation businesses in the CBD is far worse than lockdown, with many on a knife edge.

“Retail vacancy rates have jumped from less than 2% before the pandemic to 12% last December, and we’re predicting more hospitality venues will close if we do not see immediate changes.

“It’s great to see the Government moving fast on making these decisions this week, but why stop there?

“We need the border fully open to all as soon as possible, we need to get out of the Red traffic light setting so we can have more venues open and get concerts back, and we need to get rid of vaccine passes.

“With Omicron in the community there’s no reason we can’t open borders to all, or that alert settings can’t change at the same time. By definition, according to the Unite against COVID-19 website we should already be in Orange – and working towards Green.

“We also need an urgent review of vaccine passes. Why are we still enforcing them when we have no locations of interest?

“Also, the complexity and backlog for international visitors getting them is problematic because it currently takes 10 days to get one when they’ve already met the negative-test criteria before arriving.

“The Government needs to ask themselves if passes are relevant in the current environment.

“We believe it should stand them down on 1 May at very latest to coincide with opening the border to the rest of the world.”

Business Events Industry Aotearoa (BEIA) says the announcement enabling vaccinated visitors to enter New Zealand without isolation is news the industry has been waiting to hear.

BEIA Chief Executive Lisa Hopkins says today’s decision, staging the return of Australian visitors from 12 April and all other visa-waiver travellers from 1 May offers much-needed confidence after the roller coaster ride of the past two years.

“This is the message our international customers needed to hear. We anticipate between 50 to 60 business events with international attendees will now be able to proceed with confidence this year, bringing vital export revenue and cash flow back to the sector,” Hopkins says.

While this is the most positive step to date in New Zealand’s plan to reconnect with the world, BEIA warns there is still work to be done.

“As we see it, the mahi (work) isn’t finished. There are a couple of critical issues, vital to our sector, which still need to be addressed,” she says

“The first is the need for the government to indicate when we can expect a shift in the Covid Protection Framework from Red to Green. We understand that can’t happen right now in the midst of the Omicron peak, but we are keen to ensure this is uppermost in the government’s thinking.”

“The second is the process for attendees and visitors to enter the country. This needs to be refined, as currently, it is cumbersome and not fit for purpose.

“We join with other sectors, such as Hospitality New Zealand, to call for the elimination of Vaccine Passes soon. They have done their job brilliantly, but now, with the majority of New Zealanders vaccinated and fully vaccinated travellers only allowed into the country, passes will become redundant.

“This is a moment for reflection on a tumultuous two years, and celebration for everyone in the events, tourism, accommodation, travel and hospitality sectors who we have worked alongside,” Hopkins says,

“The desire to return to face-to-face events is clear, and already we are hearing conversations with future international business customers have begun. The business events sector can now begin its recovery as we start the journey to rebuild, re-hire and re-energise our industry.”

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