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Families reunited at New Zealand airports

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By Newsvot News - - 5 Mins Read

The lifting of border restrictions is the first step towards inviting international visitors back after a two-year absence.

Tourists from Los Angeles, San Francisco, Kuala Lumpur, and Singapore were greeted at Auckland International Airport on Wednesday after New Zealand's borders reopened to them.

For the first time in more than two years, New Zealand has began admitting tourists from more than 50 nations, including the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, and Japan.

Tourist flights began arriving at Auckland airport early Monday morning, with direct flights arriving from Los Angeles, San Francisco, Kuala Lumpur, and Singapore.

Due to the relaxation of severe COVID restrictions, people in New Zealand were finally able to reconcile with family and friends.

International airport footage shows heartfelt embraces and visitors being greeted with traditional Maori songs and dances.

Garth Halliday, a British national who has lived in New Zealand for 30 years, said he and his wife were at the airport to greet their son, daughter-in-law, and 18-month-old grandson.

'Family becomes more essential as you get older, and I'm getting older,' he told the BBC. 'Now we have three generations together.'

After waiting for a visa since February 2020, David Benson traveled from Cincinnati, Ohio, to be with his partner.

'I'm finally here today,' he remarked. This is my first visit to this country, having never traveled within 6,000 miles of it. I've returned home. It's the most wonderful feeling I've ever experienced.'

They were among the first non-Australians to enter New Zealand since the government closed the country's borders in March 2020.

Constanza Munoz told national television RNZ that she had been waiting at the airport since 4 a.m. for her sister's arrival. "Last night I couldn't sleep, I'm quite excited, and I'm shaking."

The arrival terminals of New Zealand's international airports have been deserted for nearly two years. Apart from a brief transit bubble with Australia, the country's borders have been blocked, with individuals who were fortunate enough to gain admission hauled away to government-run isolation and quarantine facilities for an expensive two weeks in a hotel room. The arrival of Omicron postponed an earlier announcement of border reopening in 2021.

In early March, quarantine restrictions for New Zealanders returning home were eased. Unless the government determines it is safe to do so sooner, all other international visitors will be able to enter New Zealand starting in October.

The government said on Wednesday that the country's Covid-19 alert levels would be reduced from red to orange, as cases within the community continue to decline. Because of the shift in setting, there are no longer any restrictions on indoor or outdoor gatherings, and face masks are no longer required, though they are still recommended.

Welcoming Tourists Back

Before the pandemic, New Zealand welcomed more than three million tourists each year

To meet demand, Air New Zealand said it would add 96 extra trans-Tasman flights from April to June.

"This is the first step in inviting international visitors back to our shores, and we couldn't be more excited for both New Zealand and Air New Zealand," said Leanne Geraghty, the company's chief customer and sales officer.

The tourism business is bursting at the seams with the prospect of returning Australian visitors. Prior to Covid, Australia was New Zealand's largest tourism market, accounting for 39.6% of international visitor visits.

"There's clearly a more positive attitude about the future and the chances to rebuild enterprises," said Rebecca Ingram, CEO of Tourism Industry Aotearoa.

Masks will be required on public transportation and aircraft, as well as in close proximity establishments such as hair salons.

The majority of tourists from India, China, and other non-visa-exempt nations are still denied entry.

Before the pandemic, New Zealand welcomed more than three million tourists each year, owing to its breathtaking beauty and adventure tourism offers such as bungy jumping and skiing.

Previously, tourism accounted for over 20% of New Zealand's foreign revenue and more than 5% of the country's entire economy.

However, international travel ceased in early 2020 as New Zealand established some of the world's strictest border controls in response to the global viral pandemic.

Visitors will need to be completely vaccinated and test negative for Covid once they arrive.

The reopening of the border will help boost tourism ahead of the approaching ski season in New Zealand.

In the seven weeks since the reopening was announced, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said more than 90,000 people had booked flights, with 21 flights landing in Auckland today.