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Tuesday, April 20

Kiwis welcome tourists stranded in paradise

Kiwi hospitality has risen to the challenge as the locals rally around international visitors grounded in New Zealand by the Icelandic volcanic eruption.
And, while many New Zealanders have already opened their homes to stranded international travellers, ex-pat Kiwis are also jumping on the bandwagon with accommodation offers to fellow countrymen stranded overseas.

Offers range from discounted accommodation to free family baches (holiday homes), spare beds or couches, facials, food and transport.

A Kiwi comedian has even offered complimentary tickets to the opening night of his Comedy Festival show.

In Auckland - where most of the Europe and UK-bound travellers are stranded -Tourism Auckland is working to match up more than 130 kind-hearted Kiwi hosts with visitors needing a bed.

So far, 51 travellers - families with kids, retirees and backpackers - have been welcomed into Auckland homes.

Stranded in New Zealand
Tourism New Zealand’s Facebook page ‘Stranded in New Zealand’ has received an overwhelming response from the public and tourism industry, with expressions of sympathy as well as offers of practical help.

"Anyone stranded in Christchurch is more than welcome to bunk down out of the cold with us. Big warm house so plenty of room."

"If anyone in Wellington needs a place to crash, I have a spare room in Newtown, about five minutes from the airport (one double bed, suit single or couple)."

"I have a double bed for free for a couple of weeks and live near a train station and the airport in Auckland."

"I am a Kiwi living in London … I would like to help at this end. We have a free room in West Hampstead."

New Zealand businesses have responded with accommodation and travel discounts such as bed and breakfast at backpackers rates, free dorm beds, half-price bus tickets, and heavily discounted or free entry to popular tourist attractions.

Perfect storm in Europe
Kiwi volcanologist Dr David Johnston, who works as a scientist for New Zealand’s Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences (GNS), was attending a disaster planning meeting in France when the volcano erupted.

After a 33-hour overland trip from France to London in the company of many other stranded passengers, Dr Johnston is now stuck in London, waiting for the skies to clear so he can fly home to New Zealand.

"It was like people fleeing from Europe 60 years ago. It was quite a scene, really … everyone’s sharing their stories about their exodus and where they’d come from," he said.

Dr Johnston said that the re-opening of European airspace was very much weather-dependent, and that a "perfect storm" of weather conditions was largely responsible for the flight restrictions. There was a possibility planes could still fly even if the volcano continued to erupt - as long as the weather dispersed the ash cloud instead of letting it hang over Europe.

"The weather is really key to what is happening."

Air travel uncertain

Air travel is likely to remain uncertain - at least for the next few weeks - as the ash cloud from the eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano continues to spread over European and British skies.

Flights in Europe and the UK have been grounded for days, causing huge disruptions internationally and leaving tens of thousands of passengers stranded far from home.
The European Union agreed today (20.04.2010) to partly re-open part of northern Europe’s air space, after dividing the skies into three "zones".

Volcanic ash is a major hazard to airplanes and westerly winds have been carrying ash from Iceland all over Europe. Smoke and ash from the eruption reduces visibility for pilots and debris from the air could get into aircraft engines, causing them to shut down.