Why This Little Island In New Zealand Has Been ‘Swept-Away’ By Tourists When The Global Industry Is In Tatters?

The whole world is facing the brunt of COVID-19 which has decimated the travel industry worldwide and put many airliners and hotels out of business – and leaving millions jobless worldwide.

However, there is one location in the world that is facing a totally different problem- over-tourism.

Yes, you heard it right. The Kiwi islands of Chatham are now the world’s premier spot for tourism during the pandemic days. New Zealand was the first country in the world to declare itself COVID-free, lifting all sorts of restrictions back in June. However, the country still has 58 cases, which is still a relatively minute number compared to similar nations worldwide.

As the country’s borders still remain closed and locals advised not to make foreign travels, the Chatham Islands have become the hottest getaway for the population, CNN reported.

The Chatham Islands are a remote archipelago about 800 kilometers east of the South Island (which is the larger of the two major islands of New Zealand in surface area). The archipelago consists of about ten islands within an approximate 60-kilometer radius, the largest of which are Chatham Island and Pitt Island.

They include New Zealand’s easternmost point, the Forty-Fours. Some of the islands, formerly cleared for farming, are now preserved as nature reserves to conserve some of the unique flora and fauna.

Chatham Island, which is the largest in the group, has about 700 inhabitants and sees about 2,000 tourists visit in a typical year. But as we all know, 2020 isn’t a typical year.

Chatham Islands - Wikipedia
Chatham Islands – Wikipedia

The islands are one of the remotest areas of New Zealand, and even have their own time zone, which is 45 minutes ahead of the rest of the country. This gives the travel-starved Kiwis a chance to experience a foreign-like experience within their own country without having to quarantine or take a covid test, booming the tourism when the whole world is facing the exact opposite.

Normally, the tourism season for the islands is from November to March during the summer season (its summer during the time in Southern Hemisphere), whereas now the bookings have even outlasted June 2021.

“It happened quite quickly,” Jackie Gurden, the islands’ tourism manager, explains about the tourism spike in the Chathams. “It’s a bit more expensive to get out here so you don’t get young people looking for a cheap holiday, and there are no beach resorts or anything.” 

But once the pandemic kept international borders closed, Tourism New Zealand — the country’s official national tourism board — had to pivot from marketing their country to foreign tourists to encourage domestic travel. That suddenly made the usually-sleepy Chathams a hot commodity, CNN mentioned.