New Zealand set to reopen borders to international tourists

The content originally appeared on: CNN

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(CNN) — After more than two years, New Zealand will reopen its borders to Australians starting April 12, and to international tourists from visa-waiver countries from May 1, the government announced on Wednesday, March 16.

The move is part of efforts to accelerate economic recovery, according to a statement from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Originally, the Ardern government had planned to reopen by July 2022, but has moved up its schedule.

Arrivals from Australia will be able to enter without having to quarantine. Two and a half weeks later, vaccinated tourists from visa-waiver countries and those with valid visitor visas will also be able to enter quarantine-free.

Citizens from the United Kingdom, Japan, Germany, South Korea, the United States and Singapore are among those able to visit New Zealand without a visa.

While this may be great news for travel-starved Americans, the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recently added New Zealand to Level 4, its highest risk category. The CDC places a destination in this category when more than 500 cases per 100,000 residents are registered in the past 28 days.

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, international tourism contributed almost $11.5 billion to New Zealand’s GDP, while tourism industry employees comprised 8% of the national workforce.

New Zealand closed its borders in March 2020 in an effort to stop the spread of Covid-19. The closure and restriction measures were successful in halting the spread of the virus, though the government faced extensive criticism from its own citizens, who were unable to return.

Travelers who decide to visit New Zealand when it reopens will be spoiled for choice.

Since the advent of the pandemic, New Zealand has launched the world’s first “winery airline,” ramped up tourism to the far-flung Chatham Islands and unveiled a campaign to encourage everyone to take more creative travel photos.

Mount Taranaki image by Lu Huaiqian/Xinhua via Getty Images