Talk of a ‘travel bubble’, that would see Australians visiting an overseas destination for a holiday without a period of isolation upon arrival, is still at this stage, just that: talk.
Australian borders remain firmly shut in concern for the safety of Australians and neighbouring countries, but conversations are continuing to take place about the long-anticipated travel bubble, and like most of the news in 2020, the word changes almost daily.
Below, we unpack the latest developments.
Trans-Tasman bubble to commence on October 16
It’s the on-again-off-again relationship we’ve barely been able to keep track of over the last few months, but in exciting news confirmed today, the Trans-Tasman bubble is set to commence in the new two weeks in a staged approach.
At first, and from October 16, only New Zealanders will be able to travel over to NSW and the NT. New Zealanders will not have to quarantine. Rumours are SA will open to NZ travellers next.
“This is the first stage in what we hope to see as a trans-Tasman bubble between the two countries, not just that state and that territory,” said Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack.
“This will allow New Zealanders and other residents in New Zealand who have not been in an area designated as a COVID-19 hotspot in New Zealand in the preceding 14 days to travel quarantine-free.”
No word yet on when Australians will be able to visit New Zealand without a quarantine period, however, the decision will come from Prime Minister Jacinda Adern.
Singapore to allow visitors from Australia
From October 8, Singapore will welcome travellers from Australia (excluding Victorians) and Vietnam. The country requires COVID-19 testing on arrival, with a negative result rendering the need for a quarantine period. An application for an Air Travel Pass is also required by the Singapore government, and the application for this pass is open today.
Of course, Australian borders remain firmly shut and only those with government-granted exemptions to travel are allowed to leave the country. Mandatory hotel quarantine at a return traveller’s own expense of $3,000 is still required upon re-entry also.
Jacinda Ardern says Trans-Tasman bubble before Christmas is “possible”
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said a Trans-Tasman travel bubble between New Zealand and New South Wales is “possible” before Christmas. And her statement, made on NZ radio this week, is being echoed by officials.
While previous word had travellers believing a bubble between the two nations wouldn’t be possible before March 2021, New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister, Winston Peters, now says borders could open “much, much sooner”.
“Personally, if we can ensure that both in Australia and New Zealand we are safe in what we seek to do, it is very important that we get our tourism back on track as fast as we possibly can,” he says.
As of right now, the bubble these officials are referring to is working one-way only. First, it’s likely New Zealanders from the South Island will be able to travel to Australia without quarantining. The next phases will see Australians being able to do the same.
It’s an interesting and exciting development, especially when you consider that only last week the prospect of a Trans-Tasman bubble was all but quashed by officials, who practically confirmed it would not happen until 2021. More on that below.
Trans-Tasman travel bubble on hold until March 2021
It wasn’t looking particularly likely, but any last hope you may have been holding onto for a Trans-Tasman travel bubble before the end of the year has just been quashed.
Speaking to The Age, Air New Zealand boss Greg Foran says he does not expect Trans-Tasman travel to resume for another six months. “I certainly do not believe we will see anything across the Tasman this calendar year,” he said.
“It’s hard to believe it would be before March next year and could well be longer,” the airline’s CEO added. “If it comes back quicker, we’re going to pop some champagne.”
Australia considered for a travel bubble with Hong Kong
According to a story in the South China Morning Post, Hong Kong officials have reached to Australia and 10 other countries, including Japan, New Zealand, Switzerland and Singapore, about commencing a travel bubble when infection numbers are stable or contained.
In a press conference, Hong Kong Commerce Minister, Edward Yau Tang-wah, said conditions for Hong Kong’s travel bubble would see travellers tested upon departure and arrival. However the arrangement looks, Yau Tang-wah says a successful bubble would make “no compromise on any sort of risk”.
Here’s what we know about a travel bubble for Australians thus far.
Australians had hoped to engage in a Trans-Tasman bubble with New Zealand before the end of 2020. While officials had been discussing a September commencement for the plan, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern cited the recent second-wave of COVID-19 infections in Victoria and clusters in other states as the reason behind her decision to delay.
Ardern said community transmission was simply too high, and that Australia would need to avoid community transmission for 28 consecutive days before she’d consider opening New Zealand’s borders.
“One of the things we said as part of our criteria was that anywhere we have quarantine-free travel, they have to be free of community transmission for a period of time, 28 days,” she said to media on Monday, August 3. “That is going to take a long time for Australia to get back to that place.”
In a press conference recently, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said it would be more likely that New Zealanders could travel to Australia sooner then Australians could visit NZ.
“Between now and then (Christmas) we may well be in a position for New Zealanders to come to Australia and experience Australia, which will be great for our tourism industry,” he said.
New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Tahiti tourism bodies have come together to throw support behind including the South Pacific in a travel bubble, citing the positive impact that tourism from Australia and New Zealand would bring to the region.
The Pacific region, including Fiji and Vanuatu, saw very few COVID cases and is eager to be involved in the exclusive travel plans, whenever they do come to fruition.
Andrew Cavallaro, Australian and New Zealand market representative of the Papua New Guinea Tourism Promotion Authority, says: “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.
Travel bubble progress aside, Australians are, for now, limited only to travelling within their own states and between select states as outlined by the government. Lucky for us, our own backyard presents a million and one opportunities for unique travel experiences.
Discover five stunning Australiad road trips, and find out three new ways to enjoy an Aussie weekender on a budget.