A “travel bubble” between New Zealand and Australia could be a model for the future

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Wellington, New Zealand (CNN) – It may take some time for tourists to travel the world again. What if you could travel through designated and approved parts?

Politicians of Australia and New Zealand are discussing the possibility of opening their borders, creating a travel corridor – or “travel bubble” – between the two nations.
“If there is one country in the world that we can reconnect with first, this is New Zealand without a doubt,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison She said last month.
“This is a situation in which we would all like to be, but obviously our main goal at the moment is to make sure that both of our countries are in the position where we manage Covid-19 internally to a point where we can confidently open borders” , New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern She said April 27.

“One thing I’m not willing to do is jeopardize New Zealand’s position in moving too early to open our borders, even to Australia.”

It is unclear when this “bubble” could become a reality – currently both countries still have domestic travel restrictions and all international arrivals are subject to a 14-day quarantine.

Travel industry experts say August is the time when the corridor is likely to be open, perhaps in time for the New Zealand ski season and school holidays in September.

A special relationship

There are some reasons why New Zealand and Australia would be the first mutual choice.

Although the two countries are separated by approximately 2,000 km (1,243 miles) of sea, they have one of the closest bilateral relations in the world. Australian passport holders can travel and work in New Zealand indefinitely without a visa and vice versa.

The two countries also contribute significantly to the mutual tourism industry.

Australians wear makeup almost 40% international arrivals in New Zealand and approximately 24% of New Zealand’s international visitor spending. This is particularly significant in New Zealand, where tourism is from the country largest export industry. (Tourism is considered an export industry because it involves using foreign money to purchase New Zealand goods and services.)
In Australia, New Zealanders make up for it 15% of the country’s international visitors and only about 6% of international visitor spending. Tourism is still worth billions in Australia, even if it is only that of the country fourth largest export industry.

In both countries, the tourism industries have suffered a major blow from the coronavirus epidemic, so it’s no surprise that industry representatives are welcoming the prospect of a travel bubble.

“The message from the industry is that the bubble is a success,” said Simon Westaway, executive director of the Australian Tourism Industry Council, adding that it was the only way to bring international tourism to Australia in the near future.

“If we can add to the Australians, this would be of enormous benefit to the survival of tourism businesses and thousands of jobs,” said Chris Roberts, CEO of Tourism Industry Aotearoa, which represents the tourism industry in New Zealand. He added that the amount spent by tourists in New Zealand has decreased by at least 2 billion New Zealand dollars ($ 1.22 billion) per month.

But Roberts doesn’t expect the levels of Australian tourists New Zealand had pre-Covid – he thinks many would choose to travel only to their homeland.

In Australia, some tour operators have focused their attention on China, which compensates 15% of travelers to Australia but 27% of total tourist spending. Westaway said companies should adapt and understand how to appeal to more Kiwi travelers.

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How would it work?

One thing to keep in mind: Australia is made up of states and territories, and some of those currently have additional quarantine rules. For example, a person traveling from Sydney (New South Wales) to Brisbane (Queensland) should undergo a 14-day self-quarantine period.

Airports may also have to implement new procedures.

Roberts imagines a future in which tourists can show up at the airport, be tested for Covid-19 and be admitted to the plane only after having obtained a negative result. Once they reach their destination, their temperature may be checked. Travelers may need to provide more information than usual so they can be easily tracked if needed.

Both Roberts and Westaway believe that the bubble would only work if the current 14-day quarantine period for anyone entering the country is removed.

Once the trans-Tasman bubble has been tried and tested, New Zealand could try to include other territories in its bubble – perhaps Taiwan and Hong Kong, Roberts said.

“I think it will be on a country by country basis,” he said. “A general opening of borders could be very long.”

Could the bubble get bigger?

For the first time, drones were allowed to fly within Kakadu National Park in Australia. The resulting video is stunning.

There is also some discussion about the enlargement of the bubble to include the Pacific Islands.

From a health perspective, Pacific Rim nations seem to have escaped the outbreak of the largely unharmed coronavirus. Fiji – the hardest hit nation in the Pacific islands – reported only 18 coronavirus cases and no deaths. Guam – which is a territory of the United States and not a nation – has reported more than 140 coronavirus cases and five deaths.

Many nations of the Pacific Islands soon closed borders to protect themselves from potential spread.

Ardern urged caution in including the Pacific, saying: “Our Pacific neighbors have largely not been afflicted by Covid-19, and the last thing we would like is to risk it.”

But widening the travel bubble of Australia and New Zealand to at least some Pacific islands would help boost the islands’ tourism sector, said Stephen Howes, director of the Development Policy Center of the Australian National University of Canberra.

“For many people, it’s very difficult,” he said of the effect on tourism in the Pacific. “Some have returned to their village … people are just struggling to get away.”

“Obviously no country would be forced to do so,” he said, adding that the travel corridor could always be stopped if it didn’t work. “It would be a complex undertaking … but it is certainly worth trying.”

And including the Pacific would also help Australia and New Zealand by allowing migrant workers to enter both countries. Inclusion could also have a huge impact on soft power in the region, which is of strategic importance for New Zealand, Australia and China.

“This is a real test,” said Howes. “If Australia and New Zealand go ahead and have just a trans-Tasman partnership, they could really antagonize the Pacific. It would be like, ‘well, you don’t really care.'”

Roberts agreed that the bubble would benefit the Pacific, stating that their economies are in dire straits without tourism.

“In terms of financial aid to our Pacific neighbors, this would be the best thing we could do for them – as long as we could do it safely.”

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Is this the future of travel?

A potential travel bubble to Australia and New Zealand could end up being a model for the rest of the world, say Roberts and Westaway.

Like other countries in the world, New Zealand and Australia will have to be careful not to move too fast and create a second wave of Covid-19.

Moving too fast could also jeopardize their image with international tourists, who see countries as clean and reliable places.

But overall, Roberts and Westaway are confident.

“If (the detail) can be worked out between New Zealand and Australia, then they can also be applied in other places,” said Roberts.

“Now there is a lot of attention in this part of the world because of the apparent success of New Zealand and Australia which contains the virus epidemic. If we can also find a way to resume the journey between the countries, I am sure the the rest of the world will be very interested to see how it works. “

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