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Cruising on through in good time

Violet French
Akaroa Harbour will once more be populated with luxury cruise liners  File photo

The borders are set to open much earlier than expected, allowing cruise ships to dock in Kiwi ports.

Cabinet's announced the next phase in lifting border restrictions - and the change comes sooner than expected. 

Government's announcing that on July 31, New Zealand’s international border is reopening to tourists and visa holders, two months in advance of their planned timeframe. For Canterbury, this means a collective sigh of relief, as Maritime borders are included in this, meaning cruise liners can once more berth in Akaroa Harbour. 

In a statement, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern acknowledged the impact the pandemic had had on New Zealands' tourism industry. She said despite restrictions being lifted sooner, it 'provides certainty' and allows enough preparation time for airlines and cruise ship companies planning a return to New Zealand in the peak spring and summer seasons. 

In the same release, Tourism Minister Stuart Nash says opening the borders will allow the nation to 'fully reconnect to the world of international tourists', adding that the shift comes in time for our traditional peak visitor season.

According to Tourism New Zealand prior to the pandemic, tourism was New Zealand's largest export, accounting for over 20% of foreign exchange earnings. This translates to around $40 billion for the economy, and data shows that without visitors, that figure dropped by more than $10 billion. 

Closer to home, this means a huge boost for Akaroa, Canterbury's cruise ship haven. According to the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment, in Canterbury, tourist dollars contribute a little over 4% to the region's economy. Banks Peninsula City Councillor Andrew Turner says not only has the pandemic affected the town's economy and businesses, but restrictions have affected the 'vibrancy' of the community too.

Turner adds Akaroa is an important destination for both domestic and international visitors, and Covid has meant visitors and the activity they bring have been missed, noting it has been challenging for businesses in the hospitality and tourism sectors. 

While Nash believes the tourism sector is on the way to recovery by lifting restrictions in July, traditionally our quietest period for visitors, it could still be a wait for Akaroa. Cruise ship operators book their arrivals up to 18 months in advance, and the town's set to welcome its first arrival on December 26, with the Seabourn Odyssey due for an 8AM docking.