Could we see Australian visitors as early as August?

The possibility of flights from Australia to Queenstown could light up the Southern Lakes ski season | Credit: Cardrona Alpine Resort

Travel between Australia and Queenstown might be possible as soon as August following a joint meeting between New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on May 5.

Travel industry experts said August was when the travel corridor - or "travel bubble"- was likely to be rolled out, possibly in time for the ski season in the Queenstown Lakes District [QLD] and the school holidays in September.

"That is a situation we would all like to be in, but of course, our number one focus at the moment is making sure that both our countries are in the position where we're domestically managing coronavirus to a point where we can open borders with confidence," said Ardern.

If Australia also eliminates or gets the coronavirus under control, passengers travelling between Australia and Queenstown might be exempt from the 14-day quarantine as they come from a "safe" country.

According to FlightGlobal, a special task force would be created called the Trans-Tasman Safe Border Group. This group would have representatives from airlines, government, border security, and airports to manage the easing of border restrictions.

There are a few reasons why New Zealand and Australia would be each other's first pick of the country to re-engage with according to Newstalk ZB.

Although the two countries are separated by about 2,000 km of sea, they have one of the closest bilateral relationships in the world. Australian passport holders can travel and work in New Zealand indefinitely without a visa, and vice versa.

The two countries also contribute heavily to each other's tourism industry.

Australians made up almost 40 per cent of the 1,178,059 international arrivals into Queenstown Airport in 2019, and around 24 per cent of New Zealand's foreign visitor spend. That's especially important to the QLD, where tourism is the most significant industry,

And further good news, from later this week onward and with the easing into Level 2, Air New Zealand will resume domestic flights from Queenstown to Christchurch, and Auckland after a significant lay off over the lockdown period.

Chief executive officer Greg Foran said Air New Zealand plans to operate around 20 per cent of its usual domestic capacity in and out of Queenstown during Alert Level 2.

"Alert Level 2 will see the return of flying to the likes of Queenstown, Invercargill and Blenheim in the South Island and Rotorua, Gisborne, Palmerston North, New Plymouth, Hamilton, Whangarei and Kerikeri in the north," he said.

"We've been keen to start domestic air services as soon as practicably possible to support New Zealand's economic recovery and connect family, friends and businesses.

"However the ramp-up to higher frequencies in and out of Queenstown will be a slow journey, and even when the country comes out of Alert Level 1, all domestic destinations will see fewer flights and reduced frequencies.

"This is the harsh reality of closed international borders and a depressed domestic economy, with more Kiwis in unemployment and people watching what they spend."

One-metre social distancing meant the airline could only sell just under 50 per cent of seats on a turboprop aircraft and just 65 per cent on an A320.

"On that basis, to ensure we cover our operating costs, we won't be able to offer our lowest lead-in fares until social distancing measures are removed," Foran said.

He added that New Zealanders lived in the "best country on earth and on our doorstep have world-class accommodation, attractions and activities.

"We'll be strongly encouraging Kiwis to support our tourism sector and to visit friends and family."

According to Newstalk ZB:" The world is holding its collective breath to see what happens with the trans-Tasman bubble and if the idea can be rolled out to other countries around the world. The primary reason why it would work so well in Oceania is that all the nations are islands and don't have land borders with other infected countries.

"However, once this bubble is established, it could slowly expand to include other areas such as the South Pacific, Taiwan (a country with very low coronavirus numbers), parts of South-East Asia, and beyond."

Read edition 974 of the Wānaka Sun here.


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