Off to mum’s 101st birthday: Travel agents upbeat as bookings soar

Rosemary George missed mum’s 100th birthday due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but the timely freeing up of international travel means she can make it up to Vi in the best way possible.

Rosemary George's mother, Vi McMillen, at her 100th birthday celebration in Northern Ireland last...
Rosemary George's mother, Vi McMillen, at her 100th birthday celebration in Northern Ireland last year. Photo: Supplied
Once the Government relaxed MIQ restrictions, Rosemary last week planned a journey to Northern Ireland via Singapore and Amsterdam to ensure she’ll be at her loved ones rest home near Bangor, east of Belfast, for Vi’s next milestone on June 1.

Rosemary’s desire and determination to travel – she sets off on May 19 for five weeks – is indicative of the demand Christchurch travel consultants are dealing with since restrictions lifted.

“Rosemary’s journey touches on the many challenges there’s been for family members not being able to reunite for special events,” said House of Travel Upper Riccarton joint managing director Dalwyn Sinclair.

“Grandparents that have grandchildren born in different parts of the world which they haven’t met or seen yet is a very common theme since the removal of the MIQ requirement.”

The demand for tropical getaways is also growing ahead of winter, with Rarotonga and Fiji popular destinations.

“Kiwis are not looking forward to spending a third winter in New Zealand. Bookings to Fiji rose 160 per cent over what they were before the MIQ announcement,” Sinclair said.

Rosemary George booked a trip to Northern Ireland with Dalwyn Sinclair to celebrate her mother’s...
Rosemary George booked a trip to Northern Ireland with Dalwyn Sinclair to celebrate her mother’s 101st birthday after missing last year’s milestone. Photo: Star Media
Rosemary, 74, had no qualms about making the arduous journey for the first time since 2019, after watching Vi’s centenary celebrations remotely via a laptop.

“You do have fears but I’ll be wearing my good mask, I’ll be sanitising to try and keep safe,” she said.

Flight Centre Travel group general manager, leisure brands, Heidi Watson was upbeat, revealing a recruitment drive targeting experienced consultants is under way and Christchurch’s four locations could grow.

“We’ve seen an increase of 35 per cent in bookings in our Christchurch stores since the self-isolation requirements were removed for returning travellers,” she said.

“When you compare it to an average day in March last year, that’s a 190 per cent increase.”

She said there were about 1200 staff nationwide before the pandemic spread, with numbers now reduced to less than 500, so the removal of restrictions was imperative.

“It’s great to be planning positive trips, during that period of Covid you really had to have a serious reason to be travelling,” she said.

Rosemary, of course, fits into both categories.

“It’ll be a special moment,” she said of her long-awaited reunion with her mother.

“If I can give her a big cuddle and a hug it’ll be great.”

Jacinda Ardern.
Jacinda Ardern.
When announcing the new dates to open up our borders yesterday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said New Zealand is "ready to welcome the world back".

"We have now received guidance that it is safe to significantly bring forward the next stage of border reopening work, bringing back our tourists," Ardern said today.

"In short, we're ready to welcome the world back."

Ardern said the border was already open to New Zealanders - and eligible critical workers are now allowed in without isolating.

New Zealand will open its border to vaccinated Australians from April 13, and from May 2 for people arriving from visa waiver countries, such as the UK and US, and people with valid visitor visas. 


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