Wellington, New Zealand (CNN) – It may take a while before tourists travel around the world again. But what if you can travel through the designated and agreed sections?
“One thing I don’t want to do is jeopardize New Zealand’s position by moving too fast to open our borders – even to Australia.”
It is unclear when this “bubble” could become a reality – currently both countries still have domestic travel restrictions, and all international arrivals are subject to 14-day quarantine.
Travel industry experts say August is when the corridor is likely to be launched, maybe in time for the ski season in New Zealand and the school holidays in September.
Although the two countries are separated by about 2,000 km (1,243 miles) of sea, they have one of the closest bilateral relations in the world. Australian passport holders can travel and work in New Zealand indefinitely without a visa, and vice versa.
The two countries also contributed greatly to their respective tourism industries.
In both countries, the tourism industry has been dealt a big blow from coronavirus outbreaks – so it’s no surprise that industry representatives welcomed the prospect of a travel bubble.
“The message from the industry side is that the bubble is a spectator,” said Simon Westaway, executive director of the Australian Tourism Industry Board, adding that it is the only way to bring international tourism into Australia in the near future.
“If we can add in Australia, it will be very beneficial for the survival of the tourism business and thousands of jobs,” said Chris Roberts, chief executive of the Aotearoa Tourism Industry, which represents the tourism industry in New Zealand. He added that the amount spent by tourists in New Zealand has dropped by at least 2 billion New Zealand dollars ($ 1.22 billion) per month.
But Roberts did not expect the level of Australian tourists New Zealand had before Covid – he thought many people would choose to travel within the country alone.
How does it work?
The airport may also need to launch a new procedure.
Roberts envisions a future where tourists can come to the airport, be tested for Covid-19 and only be allowed on planes once they get negative results. Once they are at their destination, their temperature may be checked. Tourists may need to provide more information than usual so they can be easily tracked, if necessary.
Both Roberts and Westaway believe the bubble will only work if the current 14-day quarantine period for anyone entering the country is removed.
After the trans-Tasman bubble is tried and tested, New Zealand can try to put other regions into its bubble – maybe Taiwan and Hong Kong, Roberts said.
“I think it will be on a country-by-country basis,” he said. “Opening borders in general can be very long.”
Can the bubbles enlarge?
For the first time, drones were allowed to fly inside Kakadu National Park in Australia. The resulting video is amazing.
There was also some discussion about expanding the bubble to include the Pacific Islands.
Many Pacific Islands countries close borders early to protect against potential spread.
Ardern has urged not to enter the Pacific, saying: “Our neighbors in the Pacific are largely unaffected by Covid-19, and the last thing we want is to risk it.”
But expanding the Australian and New Zealand travel bubble to at least a few Pacific Islands will help boost the island’s tourism industry, said Stephen Howes, director of the Center for Development Policy at the Australian National University in Canberra.
“For many people, this is very difficult,” he said of the effects on tourism in the Pacific. “Some have returned to their villages … people are just struggling to survive.”
“Obviously no country will be forced to do this,” he said, adding that the travel corridor could always be stopped if it didn’t work. “That would be a complicated task … but it’s definitely worth a try.”
And including the Pacific will also help Australia and New Zealand, allowing migrant workers to enter the two countries. Inclusion can also have a large soft impact in the region, which is very important for New Zealand, Australia and China.
“This is a real test,” Howes said. “If Australia and New Zealand progress and only have trans-Tasman partnerships, they can really be hostile to the Pacific. It would be like, ‘well you don’t really care.’
Roberts agreed that the bubble would benefit the Pacific, saying that without tourism, their economy was in big trouble.
“In terms of economic assistance to our Pacific neighbors, it will be the best thing we can do for them – as long as we can do it safely.”
Is this the future of travel?
Australia and New Zealand’s potential travel bubbles might eventually become models for the whole world, Roberts and Westaway said.
Like other countries in the world, New Zealand and Australia need to be careful not to move too fast and create a second Covid-19 wave.
Moving too fast can also jeopardize their image with international tourists, who view countries as a clean and trustworthy place.
But in general, Roberts and Westaway are hopeful.
“If (the breakdown) can be done between New Zealand and Australia, then they can be applied to other places as well,” Roberts said.
“There is quite a lot of attention being given to this part of the world now because of the real successes of New Zealand and Australia which contain a virus outbreak. If we can also find ways to continue traveling between countries, I’m sure the whole world will be very interested to see how it works.”