The group behind the proposal for a trans-Tasman ‘bubble’ said it will be ready to present plans to governments in “early June”, which could be operational by September.
Both Australia and New Zealand have been discussing the possibility of a trans-Tasman travel bubble – which would forego 14-day mandatory quarantine for travellers – due to the successes both countries have had to date in arresting the spread of COVID-19.
New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern told the press last week that in conversations with her Australian counterpart, Scott Morrison, there was enthusiasm from both sides for travel to resume.
“We are working to move on this as quickly as we can,” Ardern said, as reported by The Guardian.
“We are both very keen on it … across both sides of the ditch. It won’t be too long before we are ready.”
Prime Minister Morrison has reportedly pledged to “consider” establishing the safe travel zone in July as part of the federal government’s third phase of easing travel restrictions.
The Trans-Tasman Safe Border Group – made up of a team of more than 40 airports, airlines, health specialists and governments in New Zealand and Australia – believes the ‘bubble’ could be operational by September.
“We are poring over every detail and aspect of the customer journey to find a safe and practical way forward, for the review and consideration of our respective governments,” Margy Osmond, the group’s co-chair and chief executive of the Tourism and Transport Forum (TTF) Australia, said, as reported by The Sydney Morning Herald.
“We would be expecting that to commence as early as September.”
However, it comes in the wake of a more ambitious timeline for the return to travel by the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s newly-formed Tourism Restart Taskforce – of which TTF is also a member.
Late last month, the taskforce pitched that travel between Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific could return as soon as 1 July.
It also follows the first stage of an international campaign by Tourism New Zealand to draw Australian traveller interest, released last week in the form of a new ‘100% Pure’ campaign.
While the addition of the Pacific Islands to the bubble is being pursued by the likes of Vanuatu and Fiji, travel between Australia and New Zealand seems most likely to take-off first.
For both nations, such a partnership would be lucrative.
Australia represents New Zealand’s biggest international tourism market, with 1.49 million arrivals in the year ending March 2020 (forecast to have contributed NZ$2.64 billion in total spend).
Likewise, New Zealand represents Australia’s second-biggest tourism market behind China.
During last week’s National Press Club conference, Prime Minister Morrison talked up the potential of Australians travelling across the Tasman Sea as the country emerges from COVID-19 restrictions.
He also seemingly directed further pressure on Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan and Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to re-open their state borders.
But while domestic borders remain closed in several states across the nation, the federal government has warned it will not allow fortified states to become an obstacle to a travel bubble across the Tasman.
“It may well be that Sydneysiders can fly to Auckland before they can fly to Perth, or even the Gold Coast for that matter,” Morrison told the National Press Club, according to the Australian Associated Press.
However, Morrison’s New Zealand counterpart, Jacinda Ardern, said she expects to see the border dispute resolved before Kiwis begin to travel around Australia.
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