Australia, New Zealand blowing travel, trade bubbles

Here is a new concept: the “trans-Tasman travel bubble.” That’s what Australia and New Zealand are currently developing as the two countries begin to see a light at the end of the coronatunnel. The bubble will serve as a human pipeline, allowing freedom of movement among Aussies and Kiwis between their respective countries.

International travel, as you may have heard, hasn’t been exactly bustling lately, what with the more than 4 million confirmed Covid-19 cases worldwide (the true figure is anyone’s guess). But Australia and New Zealand have very small numbers of infections: about 7,000 and about 1,500 respectively.

So while many countries are currently mandating a fortnight of quarantine for international travelers arriving on their shores, Australia and New Zealand want their citizens to be able to go back and forth freely. Thus, the bubble, which will reportedly be extended to other countries with successful Covid containment, provided the scheme works as advertised.

Simon Westaway, executive director at the Australian Tourism Industry Council, explained the necessity of such a scheme at this trying moment in time.

“The broader reality is the global travel market is in a very bad way. In our part of the world and around the trans-Tasman route it makes clear sense that a travel bubble can work in our neck of the woods,” he told the BBC.

It could certainly be a much-needed shot in the arm for struggling airlines, which is why Qantas, the largest in the country, is eager to participate. Alan Joyce, the company’s chief executive, who has probably been racking up a lot of sleep debt in recent months, said he hopes it will be the first step in kick-starting the stalled industry, not just in Australia but around the globe.

“It’s a positive we weren’t expecting up till now and hopefully it can be established as a model to open part by part the international network when various countries have a control on Covid-19,” he said, adding:

“If the New Zealand bubble idea gets traction and that we’re comfortable with that and that seems like it’s working well, then a similar approach could be done with markets where countries have Covid-19 under control.”

Tourism is a big part of both Australia’s and New Zealand’s economies, and each serves as one of the leading sources of tourism for the other. Both appear to have largely contained the virus, and the travel policies ought to reflect that.

In addition to the travel bubble, a more expansive “trade bubble” is also being constructed to free up the the movement of products, services and business people, and to keep supply lines lubricated. Included in this bubble are South Korea, Singapore and Canada, in addition to AU and NZ.