COVID-19: New Zealand tourism 'will be smashed to smithereens' by self-isolation requirements - industry

There's finally a date we can welcome back foreign travellers - but not everyone in the tourism industry is celebrating. 

"It feels a little bit like we're being thrown scraps - like a dog being thrown scraps," says Wendy Van Lieshout, chief executive of Active Adventures.

"We're kissing goodbye to another whole New Zealand summer which in our [company's] case, represents about $9 - $10 million in revenue... so it's absolutely devastating," she says. 

But it's not the date itself that's causing the most concern. 

On Wednesday, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins outlined the country's reopening plan. From April 30 onwards, fully vaccinated people will be able to travel to New Zealand but they must self-isolate at home for seven days.

"I can assure you, as a tourism business, not a single international customer will want to self isolate in any shape or form," Van Lieshout says. 

The Tourism Export Council says the self-isolation requirement is "total nonsense" and New Zealand's global reputation as a travel destination is at risk of being destroyed. 

"The world-class visitor offering that we have built up over 50 years will be smashed to smithereens and our global reputation will go down the gurgler. It's a serious, serious issue," chief executive Lynda Keene told Newshub. 

The council says if the requirement is not dropped, New Zealand will effectively be taken off the map in 2022.

"Airlines and our international offshore travel sellers simply won't sell New Zealand if their clients or passengers have to do seven days self-isolation. It's a crazy idea," Keene says. 

"Australia is going gangbusters [with tourism] and we are going to look like the very, very poor cousin and internationally our reputation will be shot."

The council is calling on the Government to drop the self-isolation requirement. 

"If we can't go back out to market within the next week or two and say the government will drop the self-isolation mandate from April 30, then we're looking at a very, very grim situation for the future of New Zealand international tourism," Keene says. 

The Aviation Coalition says it won't just be a turn-off for tourists but airlines too.

"Because of the current border rules, we've gone from about 600,000 passengers arriving a month, down to 12,000 passengers. So we've lost basically 90 percent of the flights into New Zealand," executive director Justin Tighe-Umbers told Newshub.   

"All of those aircraft are moving up to North America, to Europe and even into Australia where travellers are allowed in, double vaccinated, without quarantine," he says. 

He warns the longer the borders stay closed, the more airlines the country will lose. 

"Once we lose them, they'll be gone for years," Tighe-Umbers says. 

"Right now, New Zealand's airline connectivity is sitting at 1960s levels - they've shrunk back that far. Today's announcement tells airlines absolutely nothing about when they can grow those connections back.

"We are out of step with the rest of the world... we will get left behind."