A year ago yesterday was the first day in decades that no international passengers arrived in New Zealand.
The only planned international flight, from Tonga to Auckland, was cancelled. Auckland International Airport was a sprawling echo chamber - an eerie casualty of Covid-19.
Tourism Industry Aotearoa chief executive Chris Roberts said at the time it was a symbolic day.
"We've talked about international visitation falling to zero, well now it has precisely done that," Roberts said. "Tourism is going to be the last industry to recover from this crisis, and we know that recovery is a three to five-year recovery horizon.
"It will be the longest recovery for any sector in the country. We've clearly hit the bottom today so the only way is up, it can only get better from here."
Passengers did begin arriving again the following day, and there has been a steady stream of arrivals at our managed isolation and quarantine doors ever since.
This week, the transtasman bubble opened and 36 flights between New Zealand and Australia in the first week of April this year are expected to increase to 400 quarantine-free flights a week by the end of the month.
The opening of the sky-bridge brought an immediate response from the markets with Auckland International Aiport shares climbing 35c or a 4.74 per cent gain to $7.73. Air New Zealand also picked up 2c to $1.80.
Tourism NZ interim chief executive Rene de Monchy has said inbound Australians would rescue a good portion of local operators. "By our modelling... it could be up to $1 billion and maybe even more that flows into our economy for the rest of this calendar year."
However, initial flights this week have appeared to be carrying mostly family and friends desperate for reunion. Tourism is expected to take longer to restart, perhaps into the June-July holiday period and into the October holiday period.
One major campervan operator, Tourism Holdings Limited, told TVNZ that, many Australians have been "window shopping", with searches up, but not matched by an equivalent rise in bookings. Those may rise steadily: as initial flights reunite families, subsequent arrivals are expected to tilt more toward tourism once the transtasman bubble successfully scales up without major hitch.
If this is a concern here, imagine how the Australian tourism sector viewed the scenes of whānau joyously weeping in each other's arms this week. Chinese tourists – who pipped New Zealanders to become Australia's number-one market just before the global pandemic – have always been big spenders, spending an average of $9300 per person.
New Zealanders, on the other hand spend $1973 each on average.
Even so, the gradual roll-up of aviation tourism is a far cry from the seaborne sector, which remains firmly at anchor. P&O Cruises Australia has announced no departures before July 30, 2022, extending the pause in operations a further month on its review in February. A statement said the company remained positive about a "pathway for the cruise industry's return to service".
In some respects, the transtasman bubble will rescue some of the New Zealand tourism sector while Australian counterparts are more likely viewing it as a test-run to reopening the more lucrative air bridges.