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(Australian Associated Press)
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has begun her billion-dollar sales pitch to Australians, hoping for a big flow of visitors once the trans-Tasman bubble opens.
On Tuesday, Ms Ardern announced quarantine-free flights for Australians would be allowed in Aotearoa from April 19.
The decision brings New Zealand into line with Australia’s border settings and means people can flow freely between the two countries for the first time since the onset of COVID-19.
In a late-night Instagram video, Ms Ardern invited expats home and Australians to visit.
“If you are in Australia … come on over!” she said cheerily.
“Come and see us. New Zealand is a beautiful country and one of the things we miss the most is our ability to share it with you.
“We’d love to see you.”
As expected, demand for travel is strong.
Air New Zealand reported a record sales day for trans-Tasman flights on Tuesday, even though the bubble was only confirmed at 4pm.
Ms Ardern continued her charm offensive with a spree of Australian radio and TV interviews on Wednesday.
On South Australian radio station FIVEaa she accepted a tasting battle for the best pinot noir, confidently saying “I am happy to have a contest”.
And on breakfast TV shows Sunrise and Today, she empathised with those missing loved ones.
“I have family and friends in Australia, some who have had some really devastating situations here in New Zealand they have been apart from,” she said.
“It’s been a long time … I can hand on heart say we have missed you.”
NZ’s decision was green-lit by government health officials and welcomed by opposition parties, scientific experts and business groups.
The tourism industry – which minister Stuart Nash said contracted by 16 per cent in 2020 – is particularly relieved.
Tourism Industry Aotearoa boss Chris Roberts said businesses “can now take bookings with confidence and scale up their staffing”.
“It also means marketing campaigns to the Aussies can go ahead,” he said.
Australians are the lifeblood of New Zealand’s tourism industry.
More than 1.5 million Australians travelled to Aotearoa in 2019, the last year uninterrupted by COVID-19.
Together, they spent $NZ2.74 billion ($A2.5 billion), representing more than a quarter of NZ’s total international tourist take.
Ms Ardern believes the bubble could bring around $NZ2 billion ($A1.84 billion) this year alone, with its COVID-free status the key selling point.
“The first thing that I will say is that we are safe, and we cannot underestimate how important it is in this COVID-19 world,” she said.
“Secondly, we’re fast approaching ski season. I know that’s something that Australians love to partake in and that’s rapidly coming upon us.
“Even if you’re not a skier, I cannot begin with a list of beautiful places that we have to visit.
“It is ultimately a change of scene that so many have been looking for … now you have the option, come and see us.”