The transtasman safe travel route is imminent. Next week Auckland Airport will see 400 plane loads of Aussies unload in the first wave of quarantine-free visitors to New Zealand.
However, according to some travel critics, they are all making a mistake.
An article in Traveller.com.au magazine has told Australians to "Avoid Auckland". Offering general advice on the risk of Covid travel disruption the story wrote-off New Zealand's largest city as too high a risk of a snap lockdown to visit.
Given the fragility of the travel and the country's most recent local lockdowns, the article advised: "It's reasonable to believe that if there's going to be another Covid-19 outbreak in New Zealand, it will be in Auckland."
While last year proved that predicting travel is not an easy task, Steve Armitage General Manager Destination for Auckland Unlimited feels this risk is overstated.
"We're not ignorant that the perception is there, but we have a high level of confidence that the overall appeal of Auckland holds up," he said.
Accommodation bookings and inbound flights numbers show that there are plenty of visitors from across the Ditch, who can't wait to see the city again.
"Comparatively, Auckland has fared a lot better than a lot of Australian cities. I think they can look at the Auckland lockdowns with a sense of envy."
There are still many unknowns facing travel between the two countries. However, the fact we are on the brink of relaunching transtasman travel is a testament to the success of both Australia and New Zealand in containing Covid.
That being said, leisure travel is expected to be a slow return.
"The expectation is we will see friends and family first, those that want to be reunited after spending time apart," says Armitage. "People who are coming in for pure tourism purposes will build as the year runs through."
Australia has always had some ambivalence for our economic capital. In 2019, of the 1.5 million inbound visitors from Australia, over half arrived at Auckland Airport.
Historically overlooked as a destination for a city break by Aussies, it has been family links and business trips which have held up Auckland's place as the number port of entry for Australians.
Armitage thinks the time has come for that to change. Off the back of events such as the America's Cup, the city has a fresh perception not only for Australians but the rest of the world.
"We were able to come together and celebrate our success, not only around a sporting event, but to show that we can deliver large-scale events in a way that is safe in a Covid environment. It gives us a lot of confidence that we can expect to see."
While no international visitors were able to experience the Auckland's sailing races first hand, the city has seen a lot of change since borders closed 2020. The Cup has brought a lot of new restaurant and hotel developments that will be new not only to Australians but those travelling domestically.
The launch of exhibitions such as Weta Workshop and the All Blacks Experience hope to combat what is Auckland's traditional winter low season.
"It's a pretty unique position to be in to be returning to market with new strings to our bow," says Armitage.
Having said that, the winter travel season may be slower than expected. Based on Tourism New Zealand's predictions it could take until January 2022 for Australian visitors to reach 80 per cent recovery to pre-Covid 19 levels. After an initial excitement and a pop from pent-up travel demand and long-postponed reunions, it could take a while for flight schedules and visitor numbers to stabilise.
Auckland, however, looks forward to showing Australians around a city they haven't seen for over a year and changing a few perceptions.
"We remain a good, safe, viable destination and look forward to welcoming the first plane loads of visitors when they arrive on Monday."
Tasman bubble's North-South divide
It is an age-old tradition for Australians to give Te Ika a Maui the slip; 47 per cent of Australians fly straight to the South Island.
The same guide to avoiding Covid lockdowns in New Zealand advised travellers to "avoid the North Island entirely".
Now, we know how Aussies love their skiing and overlooking their closest neighbours, but writing off one half the country is plain rude.
Calls to avoid the North Island are more reflective of a mindset, rather than avoiding historic Covid hotspots.
Here are Australia's historic travel habits according to TNZ:
Queenstown and Auckland Airports are the favourite ports of entry Australian leisure seekers; Otago and Auckland accounting for half of total visitor spend.
✈ New Zealand's busiest Airports for Aussie Holidaymakers
Auckland 266,000 arrivals
Queenstown 152,000 arrivals
Christchurch 130,000 arrivals
Wellington 38000 arrivals
Dunedin 2000 arrivals
$ Per centage Australian Visitor Spend
Bay of Plenty %
West Coast 2%
Hawke's Bay 2%
*source Tourism New Zealand's Australia visitor profile 2018.