Australia and New Zealand have finalised a new deal, which would allow travellers from New Zealand to travel to New South Wales and the Northern Territory, with flights expected to resume as early as October 16th. The Australian Federal Government has labeled the move as ‘stage one’ of plans to create a more comprehensive travel bubble between the two nations. This will allow New Zealanders and other residents in New Zealand who have not been in COVID-19 hotspots to travel to NSW and the NT quarantine-free, bringing fresh hope to the airlines and businesses within Australia’s long suffering tourism industry.
Airlines, hotels, as well as tour companies have welcomed the announcement, with the hope that more New Zealanders will be encouraged to travel to Australia, now that they will no longer be required to quarantine for a fortnight. The proposed travel bubble should offer fresh hope to the hoteliers and tour guides, air hostesses, travel agents, destination managers and PR reps, cleaners and drivers, bar staff and waiters, and many others, who were directly or indirectly involved in tourism, and left hurting when the country closed its borders at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The situation had become so dire that the Federal Government’s released modelling showing the Australian tourism industry will lose up to $55 billion this year, largely due to COVID-19 and its associated restrictions and closures. Ruby Kelly, from the Australian and New Zealand airport parking comparison website Flyparks, said that the company was keen to welcome travellers from New Zealand, with the news providing much needed relief for the independent car parks clustered around Auckland, Christchurch, and Wellington Airports as well as those in neighbouring Australia.
“Many of the family owned and operated businesses that we work with are struggling. Previously busy routes from Auckland, Christchurch, and Wellington into Australian cities such as Sydney and Melbourne were extremely popular with business travellers and holiday makers, who would park near these airports, and head towards destinations on the east coast. When air travel stopped between these locations, car parks saw a dramatic decline in bookings, and an incredibly high number of cancellations. The creation of a travel bubble is by far the best news that many of these Christchurch, Wellington, and Auckland Airport parking companies have had in awhile.”
Kelly is just one of a number of spokespeople that have commented on the damage that the COVID-19 pandemic is having on the tourism industry. Many of Australia and New Zealand’s tourism businesses are operating in an extremely difficult environment, and can expect many challenges ahead. Even prior to the unprecedented shutdown of the sector as a response to the COVID-19 health crisis, tourism businesses endured more than their fair share of hardship due to the damaging summer bushfire season.
Many companies can only wait and see if the slow reopening of the country’s borders will bring a much needed cash injection, however hopes remain high. Tourism Industry Aotearoa chief executive Chris Roberts told Checkpoint that the new policy was a “crack in the door” that will start the conversation on how safe travel can happen. “The federal government in Australia and the government of New South Wales are working together to put pressure on the other Australian states to open up, because there are still barriers to travel from state to state in Australia. What they really want is for all of Australia to open up. New Zealand is sort of being used to get that to happen.”
“We think once we get past the election we can have some further discussions between the two governments, hopefully the borders can open in a proper fashion before Christmas”, Roberts was quoted in saying. “While the job is not done, there is no denying this is a milestone.”