New Zealand's managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) booking system has been given a "resounding thumbs-down" by Kiwis based in Singapore, a new survey says.
The 130 people who completed the survey, conducted by NZ Chamber Singapore, gave the system an overall rating of -81 and 70 respondents gave it the lowest possible score of one out of 10.
NZ Chamber Singapore says the results are "abysmal", and show the difficulties New Zealanders in Singapore face trying to secure vouchers for New Zealand's MIQ facilities, given spots for October and November were released last week.
One respondent said they felt "heartbroken that all the November MIQ spots went in under an hour". Others were frustrated over spending weeks refreshing the site and staying up all night trying to secure spots.
The survey found criticisms of the system fell under four categories: the ad hoc release of vouchers creates a lottery approach, the unpredictability of the system takes a toll on mental health, the technology and design of the system is outdated, and the supply of vouchers didn't match demand.
Suggestions to improve the system, particularly around accusations of it being outdated and slow, include allocating MIQ vouchers with airline tickets, outsourcing the booking system to a ticketing expert, having a waiting list and knowing where you are in the priority allocation, and charging upfront for MIQ stays rather than allowing profiteers to block spots and scalp them to others.
Some survey respondents also suggested increasing the number of rooms before Christmas since more New Zealanders will want to return home then, or putting in place more flexible systems like quarantining at home if a person is from a low-risk country.
Earlier on Tuesday, after former National Party Minister Maurice Williamson described the MIQ booking system as a "disaster", an MIQ spokesperson told Newshub that demand for space in these facilities "is always high".
"The reality is that there is finite capacity within the MIQ system. During a pandemic, and where demand is high, people may not be able to travel at the exact time that suits them," they said.
"We want to be able to bring everyone home who wants to return but we have to do that in a safe, managed way. For New Zealand, that number is around 4,000 rooms a fortnight. That’s more rooms per capita than Australia has.
"During April and May we had a sustained period of lower demand where spaces were available for many weeks."
The spokesperson said the booking system has "performed extremely well".
"The problems that are being identified reflect a demand vs supply problem. Unfortunately, in periods of high demand, some people will miss out on securing a MIQ voucher, regardless of the system that is used.
"For people overseas who have been unable to secure a voucher via the Managed Isolation Allocation System and need to travel urgently, they are able to apply for an emergency allocation."