Travelers and travel agents are exasperated by an MIQ room allocation system that can make it nearly impossible to secure a hostel room
Changes to the MIQ and a complicated room allocation system made locking down a one-time quarantine easier said than done – despite reports from MBIE showing more than 1,000 unallocated rooms last week.
High demand for rooms, ongoing maintenance of facilities and new consolidation procedures put pressure on the MIQ system.
Travelers trying to come to New Zealand in the next few months are faced with a calendar of crossed out and unavailable days.
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Travel agent Lianne Powell tried to find room for a family coming from South Africa next month, but found nothing after days of constant refreshing on the room allocation page – despite the MBIE figures indicating hundreds of rooms available.
If days do become available, they are immediately taken, and Powell said the only availability tends to be for days when there are no big flights ahead.
âThe frustration is huge,â she said.
As a travel agent, she’s used to handling flight and accommodation reservation systems, but said MIQ’s website was the least user-friendly she had dealt with.
âI find their system very difficult,â she said. âIt’s backwards. They don’t give a lot of information and it is very difficult to speak with someone.
It’s just another juggling ball for migrants trying to start their lives in New Zealand. Powell’s clients have sold their homes and have jobs on hold in Auckland, and issues with the reservation process make their lives even more difficult.
âThey have to give desperate people the chance to talk to someone,â Powell said.
Part of the reason for the tide of unavailability on the booking site is that vouchers for MIQ rooms are only released gradually in batches.
MIQ co-chief Brigadier Rose King said it was aimed at helping people in different time zones and easing traffic to the website.
“There are still rooms to be vacated for August, September and October,” she said. “We advise people to keep checking the system for available dates.”
She said the capacity of the MIQ system had recently decreased by about 900 rooms, from 4,000 available fortnightly to 3,100.
âWe are operating at a lower capacity due to ongoing planned maintenance, cohort implementation and the fact that the Great Mercury and the Grand Millennium have been offline. “
With the reopening of the Grand Mercure and Grand Millennium shortly after work on their ventilation systems, an additional 550 rooms could potentially be used.
However, this may not reflect the actual figures available for travelers and returnees.
âThe actual number that will be used will depend on incoming flights and the specific grouping arrangements for those facilities,â King said.
According to MBIE, the reunification procedures “will ensure that returnees will be in the same establishment as others who have arrived at around the same time, and most importantly, separate those who have just arrived from those who arrive at the end of their stay. . “
But travel agents looking to book rooms for customers on the site have complained that the opaque system doesn’t make it clear why there aren’t any rooms available, or when they can expect to book them – often an urgent problem when managing air transport logistics in a post-Covid world.
King said there are better ways to communicate with the public more effectively.
âWe seek to demonstrate these capacity fluctuations in our public reports to ensure a more accurate understanding of MIQ capacity,â she said.
Powell said there should be more transparency. âThey should update the website more often, letting people know when rooms are available for booking,â she said. “They’re not giving people the right information.”
The MBIE told her to apply for an emergency allowance, but was later told that she had to wait two weeks before her clients left. âThey don’t look at why this is an emergency and why it might be urgent,â she said. “They only look inside the box.”
It is also not the last time that we can expect unpredictability around room availability.
âWe have an ongoing maintenance and ventilation program that will continue to see facilities move in and out of our available capacity.â