Australia ‘great foundation’, more bubbles needed

Australia ‘great foundation’, more bubbles needed

The Travel Agents’ Association of New Zealand (TAANZ) has welcomed the announcement of a 19 April starting date for quarantine free travel across the Tasman as a ‘very important stepping stone and a great foundation for going forward.’

However president Brent Thomas reiterates that the opening of Australia is not a saviour in itself for the travel agents community and is looking forward to the opening up of the Pacific and then destinations beyond – especially as vaccination programmes around the world pick up pace.

‘It’s great to have a date so that agents can plan and assist their clients. We see the initial demand coming from the visiting friends and relatives (VFR) sector and business community but we also envisage a reasonable pick up in holiday traffic during the winter. Australia has always been the number one (overseas) destination for New Zealanders and for now it is the only one.’

He says Australia gives Kiwis so many good options and there is likely to be an increase in people taking the opportunity to have longer adventures in Aussie destinations they have not been to before. ‘A significant amount of New Zealanders already take longer trips in Australia than the three to seven days, but that’s likely to increase.’

He says the announcement has been ‘a long time coming’ but it is hoped that the move can help Kiwis get confident about future travel bubbles.

He says VFR travel between the Pacific Islands and New Zealand is obviously an important issue.

‘There has been a lot of publicity around mental health and being able to visit loved ones is a key part of this. People with friends and family further afield, like the UK and USA, will want to know what the roll outs there and the planed roll out here will mean for travel to and from those countries.’

On wider issues, TAANZ continues to engage (or try to engage) with government. ‘We’re still waiting for a response from the last approach that we made to government in the mid-March.’

Early reaction to trans-Tasman bubble date

The Board of Airline Representatives of New Zealand (BARNZ) says airlines have been ready for months for quarantine flights going both ways between Australia and New Zealand. Executive director Justin Tighe-Umbers says the announcement today of a 19 April start means the last pieces of the complex system to enable the green zone travel can be slotted into place. He says the Tasman flights, and hopefully soon flights to the Cook Islands, are the kick start aviation needs to get some life back into the sector.

'People should consider travel insurance or putting emergency stay plans in place in case of a community break out in the area they are visiting. Airline websites and travel agents will have updates.'

Tighe-Umbers expects there to be three or four airlines that will offer flights in the next few months. 'Whether the fares will return to pre-Covid prices like $399 one way, it's too early to tell.

Auckland Airport chief executive Adrian Littlewood says the news of a 19 April 'bubble' will be most welcomed by those families who have been separated across the Tasman for the past year. 'It's also great news for those businesses keen to get back to face-to-face meetings and, of course the tourism, accommodation and hospitality sectors, which have been hit incredibly hard over the past year.'

Auckland Airport announced last August that it was creating two fully separated zones within the international terminal to protect the health and safety of people flying to and from countries with which New Zealand had made quarantine-free arrangements.

Business Events Industry Aotearoa (BEIA) says opening the border with Australia is essential to ensuring the conference and incentives sector's economic future. 'Australian clients are telling us they want to meet and do business person to person in New Zealand,' BEIA chief executive Lisa Hopkins says.

Air New Zealand says it has been preparing for a trans-Tasman bubble for a few months, bringing furloughed crew back on board and ensuring they are up to speed with training, along with making sure its international airports and lounges are ready for the influx of customers.
'Using the strength of our domestic network, we'll be able to connect Australians with more destinations around the country,' says Air New Zealand chief executive officer Greg Foran.

WellingtonNZ expects the travel bubble to usher in the next stage of Wellington's economic rebound. Australia is Wellington's largest international visitor market, accounting for 37% of all international travellers in the year ending December 2019.

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