Air New Zealand and travel agents have reported a surge in overseas bookings since announcing the reopening of the border.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Thursday that New Zealand will reopen in five phases to fully vaccinated travelers from around the world in 2022, starting at 11:59pm on 27 February with New Zealanders in Australia.
In addition to allowing stranded Kiwis to return, the abolition of the requirement for most arrivals to go into managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) will make overseas travel a viable option for many Kiwis for the first time since the borders were closed in March 2020. make option.
House of Travel chief operating officer Brent Thomas said the travel agency has seen “a real spike” in both inquiries and bookings since the announcement, even with prices higher than before the pandemic.
“It might surprise people, but it’s not just to Australia either. A significant proportion of bookings are going to Europe and the UK so I think that reflects significant pent-up demand. Many of the first travelers will be visiting friends and relatives — people they’ve been separated from for two years or more.”
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Flight Center Travel Group NZ’s general product manager, Victoria Courtney, said inquiries on Thursday were 75 percent higher than the day before. In-store bookings were up more than 60 percent, with the more popular international destinations – excluding the Cook Islands – including London, Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne.
“In addition, we had bookings to Mumbai and Delhi,” she said. “We expect there will be some hesitation from the public as the reopening plan has already been changed by the government before, but we expect passenger confidence to grow even further once February 28th comes around.
“We have many clients who are desperately looking for new connections with family and friends, and many who are on holiday abroad.”
Air New Zealand said in a tweet on Thursday afternoon that more than 8,000 international seats had been booked since the border announcement.
“Kiwis can’t wait to return and we are ready to welcome them,” the airline wrote. It was unable to provide an update on the numbers Friday.
Thomas said flights to and from accommodation in some destinations are already difficult to find, 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. For example, Hawaii is a very popular destination for many parts of the world. It starts to fill up at certain key times of the year, which is interesting because we think ‘oh, we can start traveling now, so we can start booking’. But the reality is that other people can travel for a long time.”
International business travel bookings have also come in, with many looking to travel within a “quite short time frame, indicating pent-up demand,” Thomas said.
“The expectation is that this will continue to grow and people will also continue to book.”
Thomas said international airfares are higher than before the pandemic, partly due to the limited number of airlines now flying passengers to and from New Zealand.
“The days of ‘cheap plane tickets’ to Europe won’t be here any time soon and that’s simply because it’s a supply and demand comparison. However, airlines don’t make money unless they fly their planes, and part of that is to boost demand by charging good prices. So we expect prices to continue moving south; to get better as capacity increases again.
“But to be fair to airlines, prices will be higher than before as the cost of running an airline has increased. Fuel prices have risen significantly and the cost of living has risen.”
Thomas said it is unlikely that more airlines will return to New Zealand as passengers until travelers are no longer in self-isolation. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced Thursday that fully vaccinated arrivals would initially have to spend 10 days in self-isolation and seven days as New Zealand moves into phase two of the three-phase public health response to Omicron.
“The problem we have is that the supply will be limited while there is a requirement for self-isolation for inbound tourism. And that’s because people don’t want to come to New Zealand as tourists and then spend 10 or even seven days in self-isolation.”
Thomas said he does not expect the airline’s capacity to increase significantly until self-isolation is abolished or reduced to one day.
Still, Thomas is optimistic that more Kiwis will book overseas trips. Many, he said, have saved a significant amount of money during the pandemic and will happily spend it on travel.
“There are many people who used to go abroad regularly and were unable to do so. What we will see – and what we are already beginning to see – are questions from people who want to take an upper class vacation. They may be staying in a five-star hotel instead of a four-star hotel.
“Certainly, the length of some trips will also be a bit longer. It won’t just be a hasty trip back to the UK to see family and friends. People will spend an extra week there to make sure they can reach all family members.”