Does our Trans-Tasman travel Bubble provide hope for accom industry?

Australians and New Zealanders will be desperate to holiday once strict travel restrictions to stop the spread of COVID-19 are loosened. The Trans-Tasman travel bubble could become a lifeline for our industry.

Both the Scott Morrison and Jacinda Ardern governments confirm there are no plans to loosen worldwide travel restrictions any time soon.

The pandemic crisis will need to be under control, likely with a vaccine. However as coronavirus infections finally start to plummet in both countries, there is talk of opening up a Trans-Tasman border for ease of movement between Australia and New Zealand (who already have a special relationship) for international travel, within a bubble.

Interviewed last week, New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters, confirmed that behind the scenes discussions about a trans-Tasman bubble were underway. “Yes, we are exploring that as we speak”, Peters said.

He suggested relaxed border restrictions between NZ and Australia could work if both nations can progress in their response to the coronavirus pandemic. First, domestic travel restrictions would need to be lifted before any loosening of international travel is considered.

The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) international tourism economy data shows the importance of international tourism to our economy, but it also tragically indicates a long period of negative statistics for Australia’s tourism in 2020. Could exploring the introduction of a “trans-Tasman bubble” be a light at the end of the tunnel for those businesses who depend on international visitors?

Australian Tourism Industry Council (ATIC) Executive Director Simon Westaway said the future release of ABS data will only reflect a worsening picture that industry has already directly faced as a result of COVID-19 and the public health response to it over the 2020 year. He said the ATIC recognises the effectiveness of management and control of COVID-19 across Australia and by closing international borders to overseas visitors has been a key part of this response.

However: “ATIC calls on the Australian Government and respective State Government tourism organisations to refocus their attention on repurposing and reprioritise our domestic tourism market which has always been the economic backbone of our industry.”

Pointing out that in the latest ABS data New Zealand remained our largest international source market. Mr Westaway said any future anticipated international market return would most likely and logically come from New Zealand.”

Australian federal tourism minister, Simon Birmingham, is also predicting that Australia’s ban on international travel will likely continue until the end of the year, but with potential to ease restrictions on travel between the Australian states and that there “might be a little bit to New Zealand”.

“It’s very difficult to predict and nobody should be getting ahead of themselves at present,” Birmingham was reported as saying.

For the accommodation industry point of view even getting a portion of visitors via a potential Tran-Tasman bubble makes sense and could ease the pressure and put fuel into the tourism economy for both countries.

It seems that now is the time for the governments and the aviation and tourism industries in both countries to be open to the opportunity to start planning for processes that would meet the requirements for a unique coronavirus Tran-Tasman travel agreement.

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