Queenstown (New Zealand) (AFP)
For more than a year, Queenstown, a popular New Zealand tourist destination, has looked like a ghost town, but with the release of the travel “bubble” with Australia on Monday, residents hope to revive the level of attendance before the pandemic broke out.
Set amidst vast mountains, Queenstown prides itself on being the ‘World Capital’ of excitement.
Last year, the hordes of tourists who came skiing, bungee jumping, rafting and skydiving suddenly stopped arriving as the archipelago’s international borders closed and attendance rates dropped by 70%.
Since then, the unemployment rate in this South Island city has reached new levels, and many businesses that were previously focused on tourism have gone out of business.
But Queenstown has seen a glimmer of hope since Monday, with the opening of the “bubble” between Australia and New Zealand.
Anne Lockhart, CEO of Destination Queenstown, thinks this is a huge step forward.
Australians made up about 60% of foreign tourists in the city before the pandemic.
She asserts that the southern winter that begins at the end of June in the southern hemisphere “is a light at the end of the tunnel…a good winter would be a blessing from heaven.”
According to her, ski bookings from Australia have been pouring in since the announcement in early April of the release of this “bubble”.
So, Arvind Iyer, a resident of Sydney, arrived on the first flight that landed in Queenstown as part of this pass.
A doctor in the hospital, he is happy to be able to travel abroad after a difficult year due to the pandemic.
Another Australian, Abhi Madras, “feels like we’ve had our wings cut off for 14 months and suddenly we’ve found them.”
However, this “bubble” can be suspended at any time in the event of an epidemic of Covid-19 in one of the countries.
“We’re a little worried, but we’re prepared,” said NZSki general manager Paul Anderson.
For the Director-General of Tourism New Zealand in Australia, Andrew Waddell, the impact of this bubble is far greater than its economic impact because New Zealanders, who live in a remote country, have felt immensely isolated during the pandemic.
© 2021 AFP