New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has joined the Australian government’s national cabinet meeting to discuss the “trans-Tasman bubble”.
Ardern told reporters she joined the meeting, which was still underway at time of publishing, at the very beginning, but confirmed she backed the idea.
“Australians and New Zealanders travel across the ditch more than anywhere else. New Zealand is Australia’s largest source of tourists apart from China with 1.6 million Aussies visiting us,” she said this morning, according to ABC News.
“So we both stand to benefit from getting travel up and running again.”
Last week, prime minister Scott Morrison said he can’t see international travel returning anytime soon except perhaps to New Zealand, forming a trans-Tasman travel bubble.
“Neither of us want cases of COVID coming between our countries. Neither of us would want the burden of that,” Ardern said.
“There are obviously, within Australia, still restrictions around domestic travel. And those are ultimately issues for Australia.
“I think simply the position that I would take on behalf of New Zealand is that when we feel comfortable and confident that we both won’t receive cases from Australia, but equally we won’t export them then that will be the time to move.”
Academics and tourism marketing bodies are pushing for the proposed trans-Tasman bubble to be extended to economically vulnerable Pacific Islands, which have experienced remarkably low infection rates.
Many Pacific Islands which rely on tourism dollars have been hit hard by COVID-19 restrictions and natural disasters, so the argument is that Australia should strengthen tourism ties to help reestablish economies in a sustainable way.
Vanuatu’s tourism office told Travel Weekly it supports the concept of a Pacific Islands-Australia-New Zealand travel bubble once all countries involved are COVID-19 free.
“The Vanuatu Government has been making representations to the governments of Australia and New Zealand in the past week on this matter with the expectation that the country’s COVID-19-free status should ensure Vanuatu’s inclusion and participation in any such ‘travel bubble’, if and when circumstances allow this concept to become a reality.” the tourism office said.
Vanuatu is still recovering from the devastating cyclone Harold and humanitarian efforts have been delayed due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Tourism authorities from the Cook Islands told Travel Weekly last week that it would love the opportunity to welcome back Australian and New Zealand visitors in the near future.
“The Cook Islands is still Covid -19 free which is very fortunate, and we must protect that status together,” he said.
“We are working closely with our Ministry of Health to develop protocol to enable visitors to return as soon as practically possible, while simultaneously ensuring the safety and well-being of visitors and locals alike.”
Featured image source: Facebook (Jacinda Ardern)