Hundreds of Chinese tourists are believed to be stranded in New Zealand due to flight cancellations to China.
About 30 airlines, including Air New Zealand, have either suspended or cut back flights to China due to the coronavirus outbreak and this has left possibly hundreds of Chinese visitors here in limbo.
NZ Chinese Travel and Tourism Association chair Simon Cheung said he has been fielding calls from anxious Chinese nationals asking how they could return to China.
"They are going to the airport, waiting there, and then return to their hotel because seats on flights are just so limited," Cheung said.
"China passport holders have limited options because some countries have also barred them from entering so they need to find a direct route home."
Air New Zealand has announced it will suspend its Auckland-Shanghai service from Sunday to March 29, but other airlines such as Air France, British Airways and Finnair have already suspended flights.
Even state-own Chinese airline Air China has announced it would halt its Chengdu-Sydney service until end of March and Beijing flights to Sydney and Melbourne until end of February - a transit route popular for Chinese tourists to New Zealand.
Cheung said most of the stranded tourists would have bought insurance from China and will probably have their expenses covered, but are desperate to return home.
"Many are really eager to get home to be with family during this time of crisis," he said.
"But there are also some who are happy to extend their stay in New Zealand to wait out the coronavirus situation in China."
The association was however unable to give any estimate on how many China nationals are stranded here but Cheung believed the number to be in the hundreds.
Cheung, who also runs a luxury limousine van hire, said the uncertainty has created a logistical nightmare for his business.
"About 25 vehicles are now in the hands of stranded Chinese visitors who don't know when or how they are going to get home, and are extending the hire on a daily basis until they get a flight," he said.
"We can't take new bookings for these vehicles because we don't know when they'd be returned."
Catriona Robinson, Immigration NZ's general manager operations, said those who are concerned about their visa conditions should contact the agency.
"We are sympathetic to individuals who are currently in New Zealand and are having difficulty returning to their home country due to the coronavirus outbreak and current travel restrictions," Robinson said.
"INZ is currently looking at options to facilitate these individuals. We encourage anyone in this situation to contact INZ to discuss their options."
The number of China tourists who have been caught by the reduced or cancelled flights is not known.
She said the visitors who are currently in New Zealand could apply for a further visa.
"These will be assessed on a case by case basis against immigration instructions, taking into account the current coronavirus outbreak and any relevant travel restrictions," Robinson said.
"It is too early for us to be able to determine with any certainty – it has been less than a week – whether there has been an increase in applications for new visitor visas from Chinese nationals currently in New Zealand."