After two years of border closure, New Zealand has finally started letting in international travellers, provided they are vaccinated and have tested negative for Covid-19. Jenny Southan reports

This month, New Zealand relaxed its pandemic travel restrictions to allow people from more than 60 countries (including the US and UK) to gain entry. The country first closed its borders in March 2020, when the pandemic took hold.

New Zealanders themselves have been able to travel in and out since March 2022, while Australians have been allowed entry since April 2022. Now the country is finally opening up to the rest of the world. (People from all countries will be allowed in from October 2022 unless the government decides it is safe to do so earlier.)

Although strict, New Zealand’s tough approach to self-isolation has meant only 713 people have died out of a population of five million. Now that it has accepted it can’t achieve “Zero Covid”, what next for tourism?

In an interview with Globetrender for its premium newsletter VOLT, Sarah Handley, general manager, Americas and Europe at Tourism New Zealand, said: “Whilst borders have been shut, many products and experiences have opened, remained open or been upgraded, giving all the more reason to visit.

“New Zealand is also celebrating some big moments this year. 2022 is the 30th anniversary of the Great Walks – multiple day walk tracks that offer the very best of New Zealand’s great outdoors, passing through some of the most rich and diverse scenery the country has to offer.

“Finally, the Māori New Year, Matariki, will be recognised as an official public holiday for the first time on June 24 – celebrations are expected to be taken up a notch with feasts, cultural events and light displays taking place across the country, a perfect reason to entice visitors back to Aotearoa once more.”

A report in The Guardian states that New Zealand wants to be careful not to have a return to “overtourism” at its sites of natural beauty such as Milford Sound.

In 2019, New Zealand received 3.9 million international visitors – with 1.9 million of them going on vacation.