Chatter of a potential trans-Tasman travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand has continued to gain momentum this month, with prime ministers on either side of the ditch reportedly anticipating a partnership in the coming months.
Although the ‘travel bubble’ branding of the potential Tasman alliance is new, the concept of a common border between Australia and NZ has been kicked around in aviation and tourism circles for many years. In 2017, the Tourism & Transport Forum and Airbiz partnered to produce a report on the topic called Fast Forward – Streamlining Trans-Tasman Air Travel. The discussion paper primarily focussed on streamlining border processing at airports.
The latest proposal for the said bubble is to incorporate Pacific island nations into an enlarged ‘Pacific Bubble’. Fiji’s Minister for Civil Aviation Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum has backed the concept, while Vanuatu and the Cook Islands are also said to be quite keen to be included.
Fiji’s Minister for Commerce, Trade, Tourism and Transport, Fayaz Siddiq Koya, told guests of a webinar last week that the potential inclusion in a bubble has aroused much interest.
“But I should warn you we are at the very early stages. There are still many things that need to be worked out with Australia and New Zealand. Work is being done on that on a day to day basis,” Koya remarked.
Fiji’s uber-luxe VOMO Island – a Virtuoso member property – is strongly in favour of the potential Pacific bubble.
Director of Sales & Marketing, Karen Marvell, told LATTE: “Fiji is a destination which has remained relatively COVID-19 free, with 18 cases and nil deaths to date. Actions by the government didn’t just lock down the international borders. Fiji locked down access to all people to and from Viti Levu (the main island) to the smaller outer islands very early, ensuring they we were protected from anyone spreading COVID-19. It worked.”
During the crisis, the property stayed open and all staff remained employed.
“Some left the island and went home, while a small team of around 40 remained on the island for five weeks, working to wind down the operations temporarily and conduct maintenance and cleaning. Refreshed protocols for hygiene and sanitation are in place already to protect our guests and staff.
“We have a pristine island environment and we have spent this time working to keep VOMO in her healthy state,” Marvall said.
She said VOMO was waiting patiently for international borders to reopen for Australians and Kiwis to welcome back guests. Private vehicles and private speedboats will greet and transfer guests to the Mamanuca Islands address. Contactless arrival procedures at check-in have been introduced, there have been adjustments to food and beverage services, and some “tweaks” in cleaning procedures – “necessary in a post-COVID-19 world to ensure safety to all”.
COVID-19 seems to really dislike places that have fantastic air quality and loads of sunshine. On our isolated island of VOMO, we have some of the highest air quality on the planet and long days of sunshine and warmth.
“We have an enormous amount of space for guests to spread out and enjoy activities freely and a family of staff all geared up and longing to welcome guests back. As natural hosts, the Fijians will still be as gracious, happy and thoughtful as ever. They might just have to restrain themselves from giving you a hug!” Marvell quipped.
“I do think Fiji will be highly desirable as a destination for Australians and New Zealanders. So many people are looking to reconnect more with nature and I think we will all have a greater appreciation of Earth’s beauty.
“This pause in our manic lives has given us time consider the environment as well as our relationships with each other,” she said.
Earlier this month, CEO of The Rees Hotel Queenstown, Mark Rose, lauded the addition of the Pacific into the trans-Tasman bubble, telling LATTE it would provide “an immense shot in the arm” to his luxury property.