‘We have been told that the population of New Zealand who want to be vaccinated will be by 31 December. So now we need to know what the plan is. Who is being vaccinated and what are the actual targets? We need clarity around that and clarity in what percentage of the New Zealand population needs to be vaccinated before we can travel overseas. What are all the actual gateways that need to be passed before that can travel and before before people can travel here?’
Thomas notes that the USA and UK are openly talking about when people will be able to travel between the two. ‘That’s what we need here – a pathway to travel.’
He says vaccination is starting to ‘take off’ in Australia. ‘If there is one silver lining to what’s happened in Melbourne it is that people are asking for and receiving vaccinations. If they get well ahead of us that will be an interesting situation.’
Thomas’ comments come after a panel at the Australian Tourism Exchange (attended by about 20 people from the New Zealand travel trade) stressed the importance of the industry pressuring authorities around speeding up the vaccination programme and announcing criteria for travel.
‘It will be vaccination first and then the borders will open,’ says Gert-Jan de Graaff, CEO of Brisbane Airport. ‘We will never have zero risk, so it will be about risk mitigation. If we wait too long we will miss out, airlines will put their aircraft into other markets.’
Geoff Culbert, CEO of Sydney Airport, says few people are worried about their health when they fly – more are put off by the risk of having their holiday plans killed and being stranded.
‘I am full vaccinated yet I can not exercise my freedom of choice and go to Melbourne.’
Culbert says airlines can not run profitable routes when borders are opening, closing and opening again. ‘Getting and keeping the borders open is vital to our industry.’
To that end, he says vaccinations are key. ‘The international border will not open until vaccinations are rolled out to a large percentage of the population. We must do everything we can as a business to encourage vaccinations.’