Jacinda Ardern has started her sell-job to would-be Australian travellers, saying the arrival of Aussie tourists will help New Zealand “feel whole” again.
In a temporary retrieve to trans-Tasman rivalries, the New Zealand Prime Minister joked Australians had never been more welcome in her country.
“I cannot remember a time when we’ve been so excited about the prospect of seeing as many Australians as possible,” she told the Seven Network’s Sunrise on Friday.
“Come and visit us and you can expect to get the warmest welcome you can imagine.”
The New Zealand government has set a date to open New Zealand’s borders to foreigners again, beginning with Australians, from April 13.
The decision has been met by delight by Kiwi tourism operators, who have struggled during two years of a largely closed border.
Ms Ardern and her tourism minister Stuart Nash travelled to tourism-dependent Queenstown on Friday, meeting local business operators and the mayor.
Her day began with appearances on Sunrise and its breakfast TV rival, Nine’s Today.
“I can tell you that anyone who comes here this year is just going to experience just such joy from Kiwis. We’ve genuinely missed everybody,” she told Today.
“We’re so proud of our beautiful spaces. We’re proud of our adventure tourism. We’re proud of the fact that you can get a bit of everything in New Zealand whether it’s rest and relaxation, or a bit of excitement.
“Not being able to share that with others has has left a real gap for us. So it’s about actually feeling whole again for New Zealand.”
The interviews included the same questions and some identical promotional footage.
A spokesperson said Ms Ardern’s office had worked with Tourism NZ to arrange the interviews, but denied they were paid for.
Both shows asked Ms Ardern why she brought the opening date forward from her original July plan, of the importance of tourism to the local economy, and whether there would be any circumstances the border would be shut again – as it was last year, bringing to an end the short-running trans-Tasman bubble.
Ms Ardern assured Australian travellers they would be able to “plan with certainty”.
“We were trying to operate that bubble between us while we were both trying to keep COVID out,” she said.
“We are in vastly different places as countries now. We are both highly vaccinated. We both have COVID here and we managing it as the rest of the world is the rest of the world is.”
On her Facebook page after the interviews, Ms Ardern posted a photo of herself with Queenstown’s Lake Wakatipu and Cecil Peak in the background.
“Few cheeky interviews this morning with Australian media to promote the fact that from 12 April Aussie tourists can visit us again. Just happened to have this amazing backdrop on hand … it wasn’t a hard sell,” she said.
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