PM's global tourism push: 'We're very keen to welcome visitors back'

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has appeared on a hugely popular UK talk show urging Brits to consider New Zealand as a holiday destination again.

Ardern appeared overnight New Zealand time on Lorraine, a British morning TV chat show that attracts more than 1 million viewers an episode on ITV.

The spot comes as part of the PM's visit to Europe, which has been dominated by trade talks and a concerted push to encourage tourists to return to New Zealand after the lifting of widespread border tightening due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Talking on the show hosted by popular Scottish broadcaster Lorraine Kelly, Ardern said: "'We're actually already open, anyone in the UK you can travel now. I'll put a plug in, your winter is our summer so make those plans.

"Having been to Scotland though I can say summer is a little more summery in New Zealand, as much as I love places like Scotland."

Ardern spoke of her love for New Zealand's scenery, doing her best in an ongoing selling pitch that tourism operators will hope will help inject billions of dollars into the nation's Covid-hammered industry.

The total tourism expenditure – international and domestic - dropped by $15.6 billion in the 2021 financial year, to $26.1 billion compared to the 2020 financial year, which doubled with the arrival of Covid-19.

Total international visitors dropped to just 52,690 last year, down from 3.6 million prior to Covid-19's spread through New Zealand which led to the tightened borders.

"I would like to think I can be objective, it [New Zealand] is just the most beautiful place," Ardern said on Lorraine.

"What I love as well is you can get that combination of being in cities but then being in close proximity to nature, beaches, amazing walks, nature tourism and now food and wine - it's hard to have a bad meal."

Talking later on a Facebook Live post to her followers, Ardern spoke of her appearance on the show.

"This morning I had a quick interview on a television show here in UK where they showed beautiful images of New Zealand while we talked about the reopening and inviting people to come on over."

She also spoke of how important it was to spread the message during her trip to Europe that New Zealand was now open again as a viable tourist destination.

"We had three main goals for this trip, as had been the case with others so far: really focused on making sure that the world knows we are open, that we are open for business, that we are open for tourism and that we are very keen to welcome visitors back.

"So we have had events in Brussels, we have an event here in London tonight and it is all about showcasing New Zealand products but also inviting people to come, to come and see us, and help with the rebuild of our tourism sector."

Ardern appeared on the show on the same day as she met with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson at Downing Street.

On Lorraine, she was also questioned about the stance her Government took as the country grappled with the outbreak of Covid-19.

That has included lengthy lockdowns – with the Auckland region enduring the most - closing the borders, and later the introduction of mandates for vaccines and masks.

She stood by the policies she introduced, saying what had been done in New Zealand had saved lives.

"We're open and I think for everyone, there was no response to the pandemic that was without cost.

"It was either an awful and horrific cost to human life, or as we predominantly felt the cost of it being hard for people to move around.

"You could come and go but we quarantined and because of quarantine it was limited space.

"It was hard for everyone, but we came through it with much fewer hospitalisations and loss of life than most."

When asked by Lorraine Kelly whether in hindsight things could have been done differently, Ardern responded: "Of course. If you look back on something and you can't think of something that you would have changed you're probably not looking hard enough.

"So absolutely. But the overall strategy, no, because I know it saved lives, I know it did."

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