When New Zealanders trapped offshore see Tourism NZ (New Zealand) commercials urging others to visit the country after months of trying, they feel it’s “another slap in the face.”
Adam Borich, a New Zealander who operates his own firm in New York, noticed the ads on Facebook and was first ecstatic to see one that began with the words “This is a message from New Zealand”.
“I thought, ‘Wow, they’re finally opening the border for us’. I must have missed the announcement on Stuff,” he said.
“Knowing 100% NZ is a Government agency, I thought this was it. There was nothing in the ad to indicate the borders were still closed.”
Tourism NZ targets tourists from US and UK
Towards the beginning of January, Tourism NZ, a Crown company that promotes under the 100 percent Pure New Zealand brand, started a new internet advertising campaign aimed at nations such as the United States and the United Kingdom.
According to Facebook statistics, the “Message from New Zealand” ad began on January 2 and was aimed at persons in the United States and the United Kingdom.
Borich claimed he’d been checking into each round of the Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ) releases online since March, which were typically timed in the middle of the night for Kiwis in the United States.
“I’m there for every lottery, but the highest I ever got was 16,000th in the queue,” he said.
He claimed he bought tickets as soon as it was reported that residents would be permitted to isolate at home early this year, but he was “giving up all hope” after the government postponed the reforms in December.
Borich, like so many others, was forced to reschedule their flights and plans.
He had been attempting to see his whanau, particularly his little nieces and nephews, who were rapidly growing up.
“Living overseas right now, you always get your hopes up,” he remarked. Advertisements inviting people to visit New Zealand were another example of dreams being crushed, he said, adding that it was “another slap in the face for Kiwis living overseas.”
“I don’t want to be dramatic, but we don’t even feel like Kiwis any more. It feels like the country has turned its back on us.”
Tourism NZ may be “a victim of disorganisation”
The adverts were brought up with ACT leader David Seymour by Kiwis stranded overseas, including Borich.
“Their advertising is whistling in the wind, wasting taxpayers’ money, and severely offending New Zealanders for whom just the thought of being able to return to New Zealand as a citizen is a fantasy,” he said.
He speculated that Tourism NZ may have booked the posts ahead of the Government postponing MIQ-free admission to New Zealand, making them “a victim of the same disorganisation everyone else faces”.
Seymour, on the other hand, questioned why the agency was paying money to market something that no one could see. “Advertising when you’re out of stock never makes your shop more popular.”
Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson announced at Monday’s post-cabinet news conference that the prime minister will give a speech on Thursday on “reconnecting New Zealand.”
No clear plan on New Zealand border reopening
After the Omicron form of COVID-19 altered the game, Tourism Industry Aotearoa (TIA) is pressing the Government to reassess its plans for reopening New Zealand’s borders.
The TIA says it’s making the decision in light of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s recent comments that the Cabinet would be considering changes to the current border settings in the coming weeks, after the planned phased reopening was put on hold due to the Omicron outbreak in New Zealand in November.
“The previous plan was developed to respond to Delta, not Omicron. If Omicron becomes endemic in New Zealand, there will be no health reason to keep our borders closed or to continue self-isolation or MIQ for international arrivals,” TIA spokeswoman Ann-Marie Johnson said.
COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said only days before Christmas that non-MIQ travel will be delayed until the end of February 2022.
“COVID-19 keeps throwing new curve balls and we have to respond in a way that continues to protect lives and livelihoods without putting in place restrictions and lockdowns unless absolutely necessary,” Hipkins said.
“Waiting till the end of February will increase New Zealand’s overall protection and slow Omicron’s eventual spread.”
Quarantine-free travel, according to the TIA, is critical to luring foreign manuhiri back to New Zealand.
“The tourism industry’s recovery cannot begin until New Zealand’s borders reopen to international arrivals without isolation or quarantine requirements,” Johnson said.
“International airlines are currently finalising their schedules for our 2022-23 summer. They need an indication of the plan to reopen our borders by mid-February or there is a strong risk New Zealand will lose quality international air connections, delaying the recovery further.”
According to the TIA, international patterns indicate that the peak of the Omicron outbreak would pass in two or three months, therefore the government should begin planning now to reopen the borders at that time, according to Johnson.
“We know that both New Zealanders and tourism operators will face tough times in the next few months so the time for planning for the recovery is now. We need a clear Omicron border opening plan. We believe that enough is known about how the pandemic will play out to justify serious work to develop the plan,” she said.
“We can manage who comes across the border more easily than we can manage the behaviour and decisions of our own population, and therefore international arrivals should pose a small and manageable risk.
“We know it will be a step-by-step process but the best way to get moving on the road ahead is to have a plan in place for reopening Aotearoa New Zealand’s borders as soon as the controls are no longer serving the key purpose of protecting New Zealanders.”