New Zealand is Australia’s best hope to kick start international tourism – and particularly cruise.
After all, you could cruise to New Zealand, take in the glories of Milford Sound and back without meeting anyone – a real bubble.
But with NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern starting her election campaign ahead of the September 19 poll, and the recent discovery of new virus cases in Auckland, it is unlikely the travel bubble proposal will be top of her agenda.
Federal Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham says it would be up to New Zealand how to proceed with opening up travel between the two countries.
“And then, perhaps we can consider, depending on the state of COVID across the Australian states, whether or not it’s appropriate to open up comprehensively with New Zealand or perhaps a more limited opening of some states and territories,’’ Mr Birmingham said.
Margy Osmond, Tourism & Transport Forum CEO is also co-chair of the Trans-Tasman Safe Border Group, an alliance of about 40 airports, airlines, health experts and governments on both sides of The Ditch which recently submitted proposed guidelines to the federal government.
The Group is hoping it will work out a template which can then be extended for travel to other COVID-safe countries in Asia such as Japan.
Closer to home, there has also been much talk about creating a travel bubble with South Pacific Islands whose tourism economies have been devastated by the pandemic. Following months of lockdown, the nine countries in the Pacific are divided about whether to reopen their borders with some saying it is too soon.
Vanuatu remains cautious but has held talks with Australian officials about a possible travel bubble. Up to 75 per cent of those employed in tourism in Vanuatu are now unemployed.
The Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forums, Meg Taylor said that several Pacific countries had approached NZ and Australia about being included in the travel bubble.
“We just don’t have strong health systems, health services and health infrastructure. If you are going to open up, you’ve got to have some security so that anyone coming into your country and your citizens as well, fee secure enough that they will be taken care of, if there is a case that comes into the country,” Ms Taylor said.
Popular Bali in Indonesia is hoping to welcome Australian tourists next month when it reopens its borders to international visitors on September 11.
Indonesia is keen to establish a travel bubble with Australia which is considered “safe.”
“We have to carefully select countries. So I think Australia, New Zealand and later on, China, of course and maybe South Korea and Japan. We are studying day by day,” said Luhut Pandjaitan, Co-Ordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment.
Discussions between Australia and Singapore are also underway where the two countries will co-ordinate a “green lane” with no 14-day isolation requirement needed on arrival.
Singapore’s Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said he was talking to as many countries as possible to negotiate a travel agreement – including China, NZ and Malaysia.
While there has been a lot of talk about creating travel bubbles, for this year at least, it looks like Australians will have to settle for holidays at home given the Federal Government’s determination to keep Australians from leaving.