New Zealand is among a handful of countries that have so far managed to keep its rates of COVID-19 infections and deaths relatively low. To date, the country has only recorded 1,154 confirmed cases and 21 deaths. However, their success in managing the pandemic has come at a cost for the country’s economy, which relies heavily on overseas tourism.
With its borders currently closed to everyone but citizens, and international flights grounded for the foreseeable future, it’s clear that Aotearoa (the Māori name for New Zealand) won’t be opening up to international visitors anytime soon. However, the idea of “travel bubbles” is something the New Zealand government is actively looking into. These proposed bubbles would include trans-Tasman activity, along with selected markets, such as Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan, who have so far been as successful as New Zealand in dealing with the virus.
According to Tourism New Zealand Chief Executive, Stephen England-Hall, “New Zealand, like Singapore, has made great progress in combating COVID-19. Creating travel bubbles with other nations will support tourism recovery, but only if it can be done safely for both nations. Our government is currently investigating options for what safe travel zones might be possible and how this travel may be undertaken safely.”
But until that time, a major focus for Tourism New Zealand will be on promoting domestic travel.Before COVID-19, domestic tourism accounted for 60% of tourism’s $40.9 billion contribution to the New Zealand economy. “We know that domestic tourism alone will not fill the void of international visitors, but with our borders closed for the time being our activity alongside that of the regional tourism organisations and our partners like Air New Zealand we will give it a good shot,” explained England-Hall.
Only a few days ago, the country launched a new campaign to inspire New Zealanders to get out and do something new, like a New Zealand road trip. “Now is the perfect time for Kiwis to make their ‘NZ must do’ bucket list items a reality. We’ve all got things we’ve always wanted to see and do. This campaign shares those moments and gets people thinking, why wait?” said England-Hall.
However, England-Hall was quick to point out that Tourism New Zealand is also still working hard to ensure the country remains top of mind for when it’s safe to welcome back international visitors. “We are continuing to promote New Zealand to international visitors and are working hard on our international restart plans. Even though people can’t travel to New Zealand at the moment, it’s important to encourage them to dream and to even start planning their New Zealand holidays.”
Until such time as travel bubbles are realised, there are plenty of ways for Singaporeans to get a taste of New Zealand without having to leave the city-state. “New Zealand is known for its ingenuity, and the world-famous Kiwi company, AJ Hackett, are offering avatar bungy jumps live through a camera attached to the jumper. While you can’t beat experiencing New Zealand in person, or the thrill of doing a bungy jump yourself, these types of virtual experiences will form a part of how people experience New Zealand in the future,” said England-Hall.
For those craving a classic New Zealand adrenaline rush, the AJ Hackett Tower on SilosoBeach, Sentosa is Singapore’s first and only bungy tower and stands 50m above the ground. Thrill-seekers can choose to drop, swoop, and scream on the Giant Swing or challenge themselves on the Bungy Jump. The site also features a Skybridge, a 40m walkway with see-through sections, and a Sunset Deck, which is a great lookout point over the beach.
There’s also a host of cafes and restaurants in Singapore offering a taste of New Zealand. For instance, Baker & Cook, which is helmed by Kiwi Dean Brettschneider, is revered for its meat pies and flat white coffees, both of which are synonyms with the country. There’s also Wakanui Grill, a New Zealand steak and lamb restaurant located in the West Tower of Marina One, and Moa Tiki New Zealand Bar & Grill, which is dedicated to bringing the best of New Zealand wines and beer to Singapore. From fine Pinot Noirs to premium speciality craft beers, they’ve got everything covered.
While the future of tourism around the world remains uncertain, one thing we do know is that New Zealand and Singapore enjoy a close and longstanding relationship. The fresh air, open space, and natural beauty of Aotearoa are major attractions for urban-dwelling Singaporeans, with holiday arrivals reaching 42,382 in the year ending November 2019. Outside of Australia, if there is any country in the world with whom New Zealand should look at reconnecting with first, Singapore will no doubt be high on the list. ◼
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© This article was first published online in May 2020 – World Travel Magazine.