The attraction of cheaper living, well-paid jobs and career experience overseas is seeing young Bay of Plenty residents packing their bags and passports.
About 50,000 New Zealanders are expected to leave the country over the next year for their OE or for work as the borders reopen after two years of Covid-19 restricting travel.
But this ballpark estimate could increase - about 120,000 young people had missed out on heading off on an OE over the Covid-19 period.
Rotorua resident Rachel Seamer was one of those thousands of people heading overseas and left the city this month in search of adventure and life experience.
The 24-year-old described the overseas experiences as a "Kiwi right".
While she originally wanted to save money for a few years before travelling, she ended up working for four as the pandemic scuppered her plans.
But this to some degree worked in her favour; a few weeks before leaving New Zealand she won $2000 at Bingo, which added to her travel funds.
Her first stop was Camp America in Maine, the US, for three months, before heading to the UK for two years.
"It is a long time coming. It is kind of like the Kiwi right."
Trained as a teacher, the 24-year-old began organising her trip last October.
While the rising cost of living had not spurred her to do her OE, she said if she had not moved back to her parents' house for the last six months she would not have been able to save the money she needed.
She had always wanted to do Camp America, and said it was a "nice ease" into travelling, but would also put her out of her comfort zone.
In the UK, she was signed up with a teaching agency and would be living in London. Seamer had two other friends moving to the city soon too with the idea of seeing the world.
The plan was to do relief teaching to begin with so that she could also spend time travelling.
Teaching was what she knew, but she was open to the idea of dabbling in other job opportunities.
New Zealand-based company International Working Holidays chief executive Vicki Kenny said even throughout the pandemic a handful of people still wanted to adventure off on their OE.
But as tourism graduates looked for experience to start their careers, and the cost of living rose in New Zealand, inquiries for its services flooded in.
"I have never before heard someone say so often in the last few weeks, 'I can't afford to live here anymore'.
"I have been doing this since 1995. I have never heard that before."
The ability to earn good money for a year put people in good stead, she said, while also being able to save money and gain experience.
In the last few months, since MIQ was dropped and the Omicron variant dominated, the numbers of people wanting to travel had risen.
This compounded with the numbers who had put off their plans in 2020.
"We have got those people coming through, all the new people coming through, and our general influx which is normal on top of that."
Camp America remained popular with Kiwis looking to head off on their OE.
This year was not as busy as it was in 2019, pre-pandemic, but next year was expected to beat that number.
In 2019, there were 132 people from the Bay of Plenty that applied for Camp America.
So far this year, only 5.5 months in, there had been 93 applications for 2023.
This year would be the busiest it has ever had for its Uni Gap Programme.
Nationwide, there had been a 933 per cent increase since 2019, with a waiting list for graduate placements in the US.
The programme put people in five-star resorts, where they worked for about $30 an hour and paid $100-150 USD a week for accommodation and utility bills.
There was also 22 per cent gratuity built into bills: "They can earn a fortune".
Lots of tourism graduates also used the service to get the experience they felt they would not get in New Zealand at the moment.
"They want that experience and then come back here ... they are kind of amping up their CV for when tourism is back to normal here."
Rotorua Canopy Tours general manager Paul Button last month said he had already had four employees leave to travel overseas.
This created a "vacuum" of employees leaving and no working holiday visa holders to fill the voids, he said.
Tourism Industry Aotearoa chief executive Rebecca Ingram said members offering tourism courses were reporting strong levels of interest.
There were plenty of jobs available for graduates and exciting opportunities for them to help rebuild the industry, she said.
"Finding staff - right person, right role, right place - is proving challenging, with shortages in the accommodation sector and in Queenstown being particularly acute."
She did not think tourism was affected any more than other sectors as young folk headed off.
"Those young people who are going overseas will come back with great experiences that will enhance our industry and the experiences that we offer to our visitors."
YOU Travel Bethlehem managing director Kay Rogers said, in general, it had been overwhelmed with inquiries since the border was announced to be fully open by July 31.
She said the private yacht industry in Europe appeared to be a drawcard for Kiwis' working holidays.
But more surprising was the number of young couples with children wanting to take advantage of more flexible homeschooling opportunities to give their children culture and language opportunities overseas, she said.
"Young Kiwis are more likely to book with travel agents now, due to the level of documentation and requirements necessary in this changing travel environment, whereas previously they would have booked direct and taken the risks."
Priority One workforce and policy general manager Greg Simmonds said it expected young people from the Bay of Plenty would leave to seek opportunities overseas now that the border had reopened.
He said this had been backed up by local companies with younger staff saying those who had put off their plans were heading away.
"This will further impact on what is already a tight local labour market, particularly in sectors such as retail and hospitality."
This called for a re-thinking of recruitment approaches, he said.
It worked with schools, tertiary providers and employers on streamlining the education to employment pathway, he said.
The latest data from Stats NZ on international migration showed provisional estimates for the year ending in April as having 46,500 migrant arrivals but 55,200 departures.
As of June 3, there were an estimated 95,000 to 115,000 New Zealand residents travelling overseas.
There were between 25,000 and 35,000 visitors from overseas in New Zealand.
This included Australian and New Zealand citizens visiting New Zealand, as well as visitors on work, student, visitor and other visa types.
In the four months ended April, provisionally, 7300 citizens have departed as migrants and 6200 citizens have arrived as migrants, giving a net migration loss of 1200.
In the 12 months ending April 21, 100 citizens departed as migrants and 21,300 citizens have arrived as migrants, giving a net migration loss of 200.
Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment immigration (skills and residence) policy manager Andrew Craig said its 50,000-departee estimate was in line with the numbers over the five years before borders closed.
He said it was important to consider the figure in a wider context: "New Zealanders have always left the country to do an OE and explore other countries, but they have typically come back."
In the five years before the pandemic, net migration of New Zealand citizens was relatively balanced.
He said while the figure could increase if there was "pent-up demand" realised at once, it could also go the other way if people chose to delay their plans until the international context settled.
Toi Ohomai faculty dean Bart Vosse said the institute had not noticed a decrease in student numbers because of Kiwis wanting to go on their OE.
With the border opening, he said there was a strong demand in international student numbers for October, with interest in tourism, hospitality, health and post-graduate courses.
"We are actually expecting to see an influx of students into our communities."
The downturn in domestic students was due to a strong employment market.
"But with the introduction of Te Pūkenga, we are combining on-campus, online and in-work education so that people can earn while they learn."
Current data aligned to pre-Covid numbers as it started to see more New Zealanders coming home and bringing their families with them.