Border reopening: are we gaining or losing?

With borders reopening, it is interesting to take a look at whether early signs are pointing towards New Zealand gaining or losing residents and short-term visitors?

The answer to date is that the signs are not yet clear. Through January and February before border openings were on the horizon, New Zealand was rapidly losing people abroad – with more people leaving than arriving.

However, as soon as the borders reopened to residents and citizens in March, a flood of people came home after effectively having been locked out by the MIQ system over recent years. The effect was that through March we gained more arrivals than we lost in international departures.

But more recently in April, we have seen the tide turn and more people leave the country again relative to those who arrive. It is too early to tell whether this is the start of a much talked about “brain drain” from pent-up demand from youth to experience the world, or if it is simply people heading away on holiday by taking advantage of the recent removal of home isolation requirements.

Over the coming months, I will be closely monitoring these border movements and other associated indicators to get an early signal as to what is happening on the ground. Of interest to me is not just how tourism activity is returning for our visitor economy, but also how border movements may be influencing the availability of workers within the labour market.