Covid 19 Delta outbreak: Aucklanders expected to pour out in pre-Christmas exodus

By Amy Williams of RNZ

Aucklanders are expected to leave the city in droves in the week before Christmas, unleashed after four long months of lockdown.

The Government says on Wednesday, December 15 the border loosens up for people who are fully-vaccinated or have tested negative for Covid-19.

Travel will be allowed both ways but tourism experts predict an exodus is coming.

Tourism Industry Association chief executive Chris Roberts expected Auckland to become particularly quiet.

“People will be travelling into Auckland but as we know traditionally Auckland empties out over the Christmas period so for Auckland itself it’s not going to be anything like a tourism boom,” he said.

“It’s going to be far more important for the rest of the country that the huge Auckland market is available and they’re getting out to their favourite holiday spots.”

Shortly after yesterday’s 1pm announcement, online traffic to Air New Zealand’s website more than doubled, with interest in flights from Auckland to Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown topping the charts.

The AA has an accommodation booking platform, managed by Expedia. Its general manager of travel and tourism Grieg Leighton said they were expecting a rush on bookings.

“We’d absolutely expect a surge. That’s probably twofold, one, there’s a whole lot of people who’ve been a bit nervous to commit and so the first one would be visiting friends and relatives and then the second one is people that have been holding off taking a holiday and going a little bit stir crazy not being able to get out of Auckland.”

Accommodation bookings had been rising steadily over the past few weeks, and those booking were asking about health and safety, he said.

“People are very much looking to providers that have some evidence or some form of information around the Covid policy as it relates to cleanliness and sanitisation.”

But buyer beware.

Consumer New Zealand chief executive John Duffy said the traffic light system could change from orange to red in a region, or a traveller could test positive and have to head home.

Those booking needed to check terms and conditions, he said.

“We know that there is a risk that there could be a lockdown and there are some accommodation providers who are saying no there will be no refunds if you can’t travel due to restrictions put in place by the Government. It’s really important that you check your [terms and conditions] to make sure, if you’re booking with a company that’s got those more draconian refund terms, that you’re comfortable taking that risk.”

For the unvaccinated, that means knowing whether a place has a vaccine mandate.

“If people are saying they won’t provide accommodation to unvaccinated travellers you need to know that before you make your bookings, so read up.”

Roberts said the tourism industry was waiting for Government advice on vaccine certificates but many were already opting in.

“Most tourism and hospitality operators will be mandating vaccination certificates, so if you’re travelling out of Auckland on the basis of having a negative test, you may still find that you can’t get accommodation, you may not get a restaurant booking if you’re not double vaccinated.”

Those expecting to travel freely will need proof of vaccination – well over 100,000 My Vaccine passes have been issued since the official certification went live yesterday.

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