Destinations

Trans-Tasman travel ‘bubble’ date could be pushed back, as NZ records new COVID-19 cases

Christian Fleetwood

Christian Fleetwood

Trans-Tasman travel could begin in stages in July, but the reintroduction of COVID-19 in New Zealand could put that dream on the back-burner, according to one tourism academic.

David Beirman, who is a senior lecturer in tourism at the University of Technology Sydney, believes travel corridors of any kind between Australia and New Zealand will come in stages – and only when Australia’s domestic borders open to each other.

“In July, there is a good chance that we can seriously make a start when we have a situation where the Australian travel bubble is nationally consistent,” Beirman told news.com.au.

“A trans-Tasman bubble may open in stages with business and official travel being the first cab off the rank, and then gradually open up to students, visiting friends and relatives and then general tourism.

“I would be surprised to see any resumption of trans-Tasman travel as open slather.”

Beirman’s comments come in the middle of a leading bid for travel between Australia and New Zealand, led by the Australia New Zealand Leadership Forum, which is aiming for a September start date.

However, any opening date for a bubble between Australia and New Zealand could be pushed back as Victoria continues to battle an emergent increase in COVID-19 cases, with Premier Dan Andrews today advising the state has recorded a further 17 coronavirus cases, and threatening that lockdowns could be reintroduced if the virus is not brought under control, as reported by The Guardian.

It also comes off the back of the news that COVID-19 has been reintroduced into New Zealand.

After three weeks of no coronavirus cases, and after claims the country had eradicated the virus, COVID-19 was brought back into the country by two travellers visiting a dying relative in Auckland, after travelling from the United Kingdom.

After entering the country on compassionate grounds, the pair were reportedly allowed to leave their managed isolation at a hotel in Auckland to drive to Wellington, on the basis they were tested in the capital, the New Zealand Herald reported.

In a Facebook Live post last Tuesday evening, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said border standards had not been met.

“This case is clear – our expectations … have not been met in this instance,” she said.

“The two cases that came in from overseas that were announced today were not announced under the circumstances that we would have expected at our border.”

Moreover, New Zealand’s National Party leader Todd Muller said the “unacceptable” border failure would cause “a major economic setback”.

“The opportunity to open up to international students has definitely been delayed,” he said.

“It undermines confidence in our border management, and that is completely unacceptable when you think about the thousands of jobs that are expected to be lost over the next weeks and months.”

Beirman said New Zealand’s claim of eliminating the virus was a “dangerous” standpoint, and one that may have backfired on the nation’s road to recovery, adding that the latest virus cases across the Tasman could result in New Zealand backtracking on any travel bubble discussions.

“I think the two cases will certainly prompt New Zealand to maintain its caution about the trans-Tasman travel bubble with Australia,” he told news.com.au.

“My thinking, and that of other travel industry leaders in both countries, is that New Zealand [and Australia] will be understandably cautious about how the reintroduction of tourism trans-Tasman will take place.

“Issues such as medical screening, social distancing and protective clothing will need to be taken into consideration.”

However, Beirman said the big picture issues are that the economic benefits to both Australia and New Zealand of reopening bilateral tourism are compelling.

“These numbers and the billions of dollar in income they generate [and the hundreds of thousands of jobs they create and support] to both countries have fallen off a cliff in 2020,” he said.

“While health and safety will remain a top priority for both countries, the economic impact of resuming tourism can’t be ignored.”


Featured image: iStock/Iacob MADACI

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