Asia Minute: Creating A Trans-Tasman Travel Bubble?

May 4, 2020

Some states and countries are starting to loosen a few of the restrictions put in place to fight the spread of the novel coronavirus. But travel and tourism remain locked down when it comes to Hawaii, and most other locations. But that may shift in one region of the Asia Pacific.

Leaders in Australia and New Zealand are talking about loosening travel restrictions between the two countries. Borders would remain closed to travelers from other countries — as they have been for more than six weeks now.

But new cases of COVID-19 have declined sharply in both Australia and New Zealand — leading to another thought. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said last week that the two countries have experienced “similar trajectories” with the novel coronavirus — a situation he’s discussed with his New Zealand counterpart Jacinda Ardern.

Morrison said, “If there’s any country in the world with whom we can reconnect first, undoubtedly that’s New Zealand.”

New Zealand’s Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters said he believed a “trans-Tasman travel bubble” between the two countries could be created in the not-too-distant future — including not only tourists but also business travelers.

Tourism itself is an important business between the two countries. Government statistics show that Australia is the top source of visitors for New Zealand, while New Zealanders come in second only to the Chinese for Australia’s tourist industry.

China has also become the top trading partner for both countries. Australia ships commodities from coal to iron ore to China, while New Zealand’s leading exports to the country include meat and dairy products.