Could we have a South Pacific travel bubble?

A working group has been set up to push forward a South Pacific Travel Bubble.

This week a formal letter was sent to the offices of both the Australian and New Zealand Prime Ministers, to highlight the benefits of including the Pacific nations in a regional travel bubble.

The Australia representatives of New Caledonia Tourism, Papua New Guinea Tourism Promotion Authority, Tourism Solomons and Tahiti Tourisme joined forces to form this working group and are hoping to make the proposed South Pacific Travel Bubble, or Trans-Pacific Bubble become a reality.

They point out there have only been 88 cases of COVID-19 and zero deaths in New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Tahiti combined. Nevertheless the group still recognise any proposal for a reopening of international borders will require “planning and negotiation between various government bodies, along with strict control measures and enhanced health monitoring”.

Andrew Cavallaro, Australian / New Zealand Market Representative, Papua New Guinea Tourism Promotion Authority, said of the group’s lobbying: “Tourism is a vitally important source of employment and economic driver for our South Pacific neighbours, all of whom are heavily reliant on Australian and New Zealand visitors for their survival.

We play a pivotal role in helping these Pacific islands find their feet again following the devastating impacts of COVID-19 and opening borders to establish a South Pacific bubble is undoubtedly the fastest and most effective means to helping them reboot.

“With the aim of prompting and quickly progressing these conversations at a government level, we have established a collaborative working group of South Pacific tourism boards to lobby for a South Pacific Bubble akin to the proposed Trans-Tasman Bubble currently being discussed. We hope that by submitting letters of endorsement to the Prime Ministers of Australia and New Zealand, and to both government’s Foreign Affairs and Pacific ministers, that consideration is given for a reopening of borders between Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific as soon as is safe and practicable.”

The formal letter said:

  • Tourism has a positive impact on the livelihoods of many in the South Pacific, not only from a direct economic benefit standpoint, but also in its ability to unite communities, encourage the preservation of indigenous culture, and place a greater focus on environmental protection. It offers the widest-reaching and fairest economic spread to businesses and communities
  • For some of the countries/territories listed, tourism is the number one industry for employment whilst for others it is a high-growth economic driver that is helping aide-reliant countries gain financial independence
  • For all the countries/territories listed, Australia represents the most important inbound market and one of the highest source of visitor arrivals. This not only provides benefit to the countries/territories in the group, but also job security for the tens of thousands of Australians that work in travel and tourism and rely on outbound travel for job security
  • Reopening borders with Australia’s South Pacific neighbours and allowing their tourism industries to reboot is undoubtedly the fastest and most effective way Australia can help

Caroline Brunel, Account Director, Tahiti Tourisme, Australia and New Zealand, echoed Andrew’s sentiments. “The concept of a South Pacific bubble is of great importance to many people – and not just those desperate to get back to a tropical island, which I think many of us are dreaming of right now! Tens of thousands of Australians rely on outbound travel for their jobs, and tourism is the life blood of entire nations in the South Pacific,” she said. 

 “Collectively, the nations of the South Pacific have done an incredible job of flattening their respective COVID curves, if not eradicating the virus all together. We want to work together to facilitate safe travel wherever we can, and the concept of an inclusive bubble is one that works. We are coming together to keep the conversation going, and to assist wherever we can to make a South Pacific Bubble a reality.”

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