Mountainwatch | Reggae Elliss
After months of talks, speculation, pressure and frustration, New Zealand’s Primer Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced today that quarantine-free travel will resume between Australia and New Zealand from 11.59pm on Sunday April 18.
This afternoon’s confirmation of the travel bubble is most welcome, particularly after the anticlimax of the much-anticipated press conference on March 23 when many hoped the commencement date would be announced.
The reasons given then for the delay where that a number of criteria had to be met before quarantine-free travel into New Zealand could resume, including the response when there are cases in Australia, contact tracing for travellers from Australia, airlines, airports and agencies being ready for travel to resume and an up-to-date health assessment from NZ’s director of General Health.
Today’s decision came after the New Zealand cabinet was satisfied those criteria have been met, Ardern saying that the advice from the Director-General of Health was that “the risk of transmission of COVID-19 from Australia to New Zealand is low and that quarantine free travel is safe to commence.”
“Quarantine free travel will not be what it was pre-COVID-19, and those undertaking travel will do so under the guidance of ‘flyer beware’,” Prime Mister Arden said. “People will need to plan for the possibility of having travel disrupted if there is an outbreak.”
While it is great news for Kiwis living in Australia who are keen to visit family and friends in New Zealand it is also welcome news for Australian skiers and snowboarders who are keen for a taste of international travel.
For the New Zealand tourism industry today’s announcement is a big positive step back to normalcy and it will be a boon for the industry nation-wide. Prior to Covid 19 and the associated border closures, Australians accounted for almost 40% of New Zealand’s international visitors, delivering a $2.7 billion spend in 2019. Accordingly, Tourism New Zealand regards the Australian market as “critical to New Zealand’s recovery” and over the past six months has been lobbying strongly for the trans-Tasman travel bubble to open.
Australians are also a huge market for the New Zealand ski snow industry with Australians making up 71% of international visitors who skied and will be welcomed back with open arms.
“Every business in central Queenstown is absolutely frothing at the possibility of our Australian guests returning and they are certainly ready,” said Mountainwatch snow reporter and Queenstown local Nick Hyne.
“Accommodation providers, activity operators, restaurants and bars are constantly plotting for what lies ahead after a prolonged period of reduced visitor numbers. Having a date for the bubble will give local businesses an immense sense of hope and excitement – especially in the lead up to winter.”
Of course, as Jacinda Arden has said, the bubble comes with an “element of flyer beware” as a Covid outbreak in either country could see the borders close with little notice, leaving travellers stranded on the wrong of the ditch.
Still, it’s a similar situation to what we already have between states here in Australia and no doubt many Australians will be dusting of their ski and snowboard bags in anticipation of crossing the Tasman for a few turns this winter.
You can read all the details and the full press release from Prime Minister Ardern’s office here.