‘A day to celebrate’: Emotional reunions as borders reopen to 60 visa waiver countries

Kia ora, bonjour, konnichiwa, encantado and hallo, hullo, hello.

New Zealand is back on the world map for the first time in 767 days for visitors from some 60 visa-waiver countries from this morning, as two flights from the United States mark a milestone for travel from the Northern Hemisphere.

On Monday, heartwarming scenes played out at Auckland Airport just after 6am as the international terminal welcomed travellers and returnees on a flight from Los Angeles.

The Los Angeles arrivals touched down on the runway slightly ahead of schedule. A San Francisco flight initially due at a similar time had been rescheduled, its arrival time shifted from 6.10 to 7.46am.

A man and woman embrace at Auckland International Airport's terminal on Monday morning.

Abigail Dougherty/Stuff

A man and woman embrace at Auckland International Airport’s terminal on Monday morning.

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Garth and Chris Halliday were in tears when their son Stephen exited the departure lounge with his wife and son.

Stephen had flown from London, via a connecting flight in Los Angeles, and said it was “emotional” to be home, and he was looking forward to spending the evening catching up with family.

Prior to Stephen’s arrival, Garth likened the surrounding situation to a famous Love Actually scene, and said it made him happy and emotional to see so many families reunited.

The two hadn’t seen their son, daughter-in-law and grandson in over a year, he said.

Ensuring arrivals were given a warm welcome were a small group delivering jubilant Māori song and dance, while those waiting clapped and cheered, some holding balloons and welcome cards for their returning friends and whānau.

Emotional scenes at Auckland International Airport as those on the first flight from the US under relaxed border rules clear Customs.

Abigail Dougherty/Stuff

Emotional scenes at Auckland International Airport as those on the first flight from the US under relaxed border rules clear Customs.

“It’s really nice to hear the music and feel welcomed back,” said Maeve Long, who had flown in from London, via a connecting flight in LA, after visiting family in Ireland.

Long, who works at the University of Waikato, had been away since January.

From Ireland but having lived in New Zealand for six years, she said it felt as though she was coming “from one home to another”.

Marianne Niukapu had only been Stateside for two months, but that didn’t stop emotions running high as she arrived back on home soil.Through tears, she said it was “amazing” international borders were being relaxed once again.

Air New Zealand Chief Customer and Sales Officer Leanne Geraghty said the flights were filled to the brim with overseas visitors and returning Kiwis.

Like Australians, they can now travel without isolation if they are vaccinated, and do a pre-departure and then two arrival tests for Covid-19.

“They’ll be thrilled to land on New Zealand shores once again, as they reconnect with family, start their studies or build their businesses,” she said.

“It’s great to have international tourists being able to visit our beautiful country again and explore everything Aotearoa New Zealand has to offer.”

Tourists at Lake Tekapo. Winter tourism in NZ is now an option for residents from around 60 countries as the border is relaxed.

Alden Williams/Stuff

Tourists at Lake Tekapo. Winter tourism in NZ is now an option for residents from around 60 countries as the border is relaxed.

Geraghty said demand from visa-waiver countries had exceeded expectations, with many flight services filling up.

“We’re pleased with how bookings are going across the network, both domestic and international. This is welcome news for the New Zealand tourism industry, which has weathered a difficult storm over the past 800 days.”

Air New Zealand was ramping up its network to include Honolulu and Houston routes in July, she said.

Tourism Minister Stuart Nash said international online searches for flights to New Zealand were running 19 per cent higher than in 2018-19.

“We are a safe place to visit, and in a world still battling Covid-19, travellers will be discerning about where they go,” Nash said.

“The industry knows there is a rebuild ahead. International travel will be very competitive and airlines will take time to build up their schedules and routes.

“However today is a day to celebrate, and is a big moment in our reconnection with the world.”

Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi said the government would continue to review New Zealand’s reconnecting strategy to see if and when it might be possible to bring forward final steps of the reconnecting plan.

One of the last major tourism markets not catered for is China, which is not a visa-waiver country. Tourists from the country, the second-largest market pre-Covid, currently won’t be welcomed until October.

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Malaysia Reopens Borders to Vaccinated Passengers After Two Years of Travel Curbs | World News

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – Malaysia fully reopened its borders on Friday, dropping quarantine requirements for people vaccinated against COVID-19 after two years of strict travel restrictions.

The Southeast Asian nation has maintained some of the tightest entry curbs in the region to try to contain coronavirus outbreaks, with most foreign nationals barred from entry and returning Malaysians required to undergo quarantine.

   A flight carrying 140 passengers from Indonesia to Kuala Lumpur was greeted with a water salute after touching down.

“Because of the pandemic, it’s been hard but finally I’ve managed to get on a plane after so long. And it’s nice that we are being greeted so warmly here,” said Ikrima Irza Fatika, 19, an Indonesian traveller visiting the capital.

The reopening of borders marks the start of the country’s transition to the endemic phase of COVID-19, the government has said, and comes as neighbouring countries like Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand also drop most travel restrictions.

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    Malaysia is expecting to attract two million tourists this year following the lifting of curbs, tourism minister Nancy Shukri said, according to state news agency Bernama.

(Reporting by Ebrahim Harris; Editing by Kanupriya Kapoor and Nick Macfie)

Copyright 2022 Thomson Reuters.

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After nearly 700 days, Western Australia has opened its borders

Editor’s Note — Sign up for Unlocking the World, CNN Travel’s weekly newsletter. Get news about destinations opening and closing, inspiration for future adventures, plus the latest in aviation, food and drink, where to stay and other travel developments.

(CNN) — After almost 700 days, one of the world’s longest border closures has finally ended Down Under, Yellowstone National Park is celebrating its 150th anniversary, and we have an update on India’s high-speed rail ambitions.

Here’s what’s been happening in travel this week.

Reopenings and rule changes

In some happy news, families and loved ones were reunited in Western Australia on March 3, after the state reopened to both domestic and international visitors after a long 697 days of isolation.
An aerial view from the window of a plane shows Diamond Head crater in Oahu. Hawaii is lifting some Covid restrictions later this month.

An aerial view from the window of a plane shows Diamond Head crater in Oahu. Hawaii is lifting some Covid restrictions later this month.

Daniel Slim/AFP via Getty Images

Israel is now open to unvaccinated tourists and Bahrain has dropped all testing, vaccination and quarantine requirements for entry — although Covid-19 measures are still in place.
And in what amounts to a little bit of a slowdown after the Omicron variant spiked around the globe, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has added only one new destination to it its highest-risk category for travel.

World responds to war in Ukraine

The US, Canada, the EU and the UK, among others, have all banned Russian aircraft from their airspaces and Russia has reciprocated the bans — except for the United States.
Cruise lines, tour operators and other travel operations have joined in the global protest by canceling Russian tours, among other measures. And Russia’s largest airline, Aeroflot, will be finding it harder to sell seats, after being dropped on Thursday from major global distribution systems.
The world’s largest airplane, the Antonov An-225 — a mammoth cargo plane that’s acquired iconic status in the aviation world — has been destroyed in the conflict, according to Ukrainian officials.
An American basketball player stranded in Ukraine traveled 5,000 miles to make it home. Meanwhile actor Sean Penn, in the country for a documentary, says he crossed the border into Poland on foot.

Nature marches on

One of the world’s longest animal migrations is the 1,000-kilometer trek made each year by thousands of zebras across the salt pans of Botswana’s Nxai Pan National Park. Our writer went along to see it.
From Africa over to North America, where Yellowstone National Park — which sits atop a supervolcano, don’t you know — is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year. We look back at the history of one of the United States’ most loved destinations.

Culture in danger

New additions include an English castle damaged by storms, the Maldives’ Koagannu mosques and cemetery which are threatened by rising sea levels, and the historic city center of Benghazi in Libya.

The future of India’s railways

India’s famous railways helped turn the country into the economic superpower it is today, but those trailblazing tracks are now getting outdated.

And if you’d like to know more about India’s rich culture and incredible roadside restaurants, have a listen to Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown podcast: He visited Punjab back in 2014.

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Get set, travel

Wave that tired old fanny pack goodbye. Today’s best travel wallets are sexy, chic and secure, and our partners at CNN Underscored, a product reviews and recommendations guide owned by CNN, have rounded up 24 of their favorites.

Top image: Returning international passengers are greeted on arrival at the Perth International Airport Terminal on March 3, 2022 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

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CDC Warns Against Travel to Vietnam Weeks Before Country Opens Its Borders

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On board the first flight back to Australia from the UK as borders reopen

Usually, my strategy to survive the UK to Australia flight is to get a window seat, sink several glasses of red wine, eat some antihistamines and comatose myself for as much of the journey as possible. This time, I had to change my approach; being pregnant, I was sober, which meant I was conscious for most of the journey. One benefit of being awake, however, was that I was rewarded with a tip-off by our jaunty flight attendant Andrew as to the best view over central Australia, when the clouds cleared and the scenery was at its finest.

We landed in Darwin to our first blast of above-30C summer air, a scrum of cameramen, a gaggle of flag-waving Australians and, in true Aussie style, a meet-and-greet with celebrity crocodile wrangler Matt Wright. Less than 45 minutes later, we were back on the plane to Sydney where many of our fellow passengers will, at long last, crash into the waiting arms of their loved ones. 

Julius and I still have an overnight airport hotel stay in Sydney and another domestic flight on to Adelaide before I get to hug my father again – not much longer in the grand scheme of things. Will the wait be worth it? Perhaps, in the same childish way that any delayed gratification tastes all the sweeter. 

As we touched down in Sydney and made our way through the arrivals hall, to rapturous applause, back-slapping embraces and tearful reunions at every turn, it was hard to feel anything but pure joy and giddy jubilation. 

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NSW records seven deaths, 4916 cases; Three deaths, 5611 new cases in Victoria; First flights arrive after international borders reopen; Sydney train strike updates; Queen tests positive for COVID-19

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet has blamed the transport union over today’s Sydney rail shutdown.

All train services were cancelled today, with commuters and workers alike blindsided by the overnight announcement.

Union representatives have said the shutdown was not a planned strike and instead blamed the government for the suspension.

But Mr Perrottet said industrial action is to blame, after a breakdown of communication on Sunday.

“I’m incredibly disappointed. I feel the anger of everybody across our city,” Mr Perrottet said.

“The first day we have international arrivals coming in, a day where mums and dads are trying to get their kids to school,a day when many university students are going back to class for the first time. Many people as a result of our announcement last week, returning to work,” Mr Perrottet said.

He added that the unions need to deal with industrial issues in a reasonable way.

“If there are industrial issues which I have flagged right across the public service, then we deal with it in a thoughtful, measured way that puts people at the heart of it,” Mr Perrottet said.

“It’s absolutely disgraceful. It should be condemned.”

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When can I travel to Japan? Borders might reopen to all international travellers by March 2022

Countries all over the world have come out of lockdown and reopened their borders over the past few months. Now Japan could start to welcome back at least some international travellers too.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has announced that changes to Japan’s strict border policy could be imminent. That means that travellers and students could finally be allowed to visit the country, after mounting frustration about the stringent restrictions. The current rules were implemented in November as a response to rising Omicron cases and are due to expire at the end of February. 

News site the Nikkei reported that around a thousand people a day will initially be able to enter the country, gradually rising to several thousand. If you’re hoping for a holiday though, be warned: the looser restrictions will only apply to business travellers and people hoping to relocate, with priority given to people with occupations that have clear ‘public benefit’. Schools and companies will have to sponsor individuals hoping to enter, and visitors will have to self-isolate on arrival. 

There is some good news, though. The quarantine period is going to be slashed from seven days to three for anyone who has received a booster and taken a positive test. This hopefully means that when travellers are eventually allowed to visit, they wonÛ’t be spending half their trip waiting in a hotel room. 

A decision is going to be made later this week on loosening the restrictions, so keep your eyes peeled for more details. Until then, you’ll just have to continue dreaming about that Tokyo holiday you’ll eventually take. 

Did you see that Australia is finally reopening its borders?

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