Pacific Scoop

Is The New Zealand Travel Industry Out Of The Woods?

Article – Kalkine

The COVID-19 pandemic hit the pause button on travel plans last year, derailing NZs tourism settings. While the rebuilding process initiated immediately after the early relaxations in shutdown, the travel industry may have to hold their horses for the …

The NZ travel industry has come a long way from the dismal abyss of 2020, sweeping through the toughest challenges.

  • Certain trends are instilling hopes of the travel sector’s gradual recovery from the virus crisis.
  • The recent initiation of coronavirus vaccination drive may bring some respite for the wounded travel industry.

Undeniably, the indefinite closure of overseas borders has been a misfortune for the NZ travel industry, which is still struggling to stay afloat during the gloomy situation. However, some promising signs that seem to hit the ground running for the nation’s travel industry warrant closer attention to assess the near-term growth trajectory of the sector.

The COVID-19 pandemic hit the pause button on travel plans last year, derailing NZ’s tourism settings. While the rebuilding process initiated immediately after the early relaxations in shutdown, the travel industry may have to hold their horses for the time being to witness the sector’s return to pre-COVID levels.

The time and pace of the travel industry’s recovery to the pre-pandemic shape hinges upon the emerging situation & the policymakers’ support for the distressed sector. Although a full-fledged revival looks some time away, some trends are infusing positivity into the travel sector’s gradual resurgence from the COVID-19 storm.

Let us have a quick look at these trends that can define travel in 2021:

Resumption of Trans-Tasman Travel Bubble

Tourism businesses across Australia and NZ have been hoping for a sooner return of non-quarantine travel between the two nations that can provide some sort of cushion to the battered travel industry. While Aussies entry into the Kiwi Land is not yet open, the ban on quarantine-free flights from NZ to Australia has been recently lifted by the Australian government.

In late January 2021, Australia paused quarantine-free travel from NZ after a small coronavirus outbreak in Auckland. However, the one-way travel bubble has now resumed, allowing Kiwis entering Australia to travel without having to quarantine for fourteen days. The recent development reflects the confidence of Australian health authorities that their NZ counterparts have brought the highly contagious strain of COVID-19 under control.

With the initial commencement of the COVID-19 vaccination programme in Australia and NZ, the long-awaited two-way travel bubble may become a reality soon. However, much depends on the effective containment of virus outbreaks in both the countries and their sound arrangements to build COVID-safe travel.

Potential Use of IATA Travel Pass App

NZ is gearing up to experiment the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) “Travel Pass” app on flights to Australia, which can unlock the potential for contactless travel.

Air New Zealand is the first airline to test this digital travel pass app to ensure the safety of travellers cross borders. The Kiwi airline will test this application on Auckland-Sydney flights for 3 weeks in April 2021. Launched by IATA in late 2020, the digital “Travel Pass” app is also being trialled by other airlines across the globe, including Emirates and Singapore Airlines.

Amid the global rollout of COVID-19 vaccination, the app promises to support passengers securely and easily oversee their travel documentation digitally in accordance with current government requirements. Besides, it allows travellers to safely store as well as present information related to coronavirus tests & their vaccination status.

The IATA’s “Travel Pass” app can emerge as a one-stop solution for safe international travel in the post-COVID era. Besides, the application might give the much-needed confidence to the government to re-open overseas borders and to the passengers to travel internationally. The successful trial of the travel pass system is also anticipated to chart out the course of recovery for the pandemic-hit aviation industry.

Probable Travel Bubble with Fiji

Fiji has constantly been pushing for a one-way travel bubble with NZ and Australia, which will allow quarantine-free travel to the island nation. Akin to NZ, Fiji has proven itself as a safe travel destination during the COVID-19 pandemic, with zero cases reported for over 300 days.

Fiji’s travel bubble, known as Bula Bubble, has been designed keeping in mind the island nation’s sizeable dependence on the tourism industry for stimulating economic growth. Majority of tourists used to come from Australia and NZ to Fiji in the pre-pandemic phase, producing considerable revenue for the country.

The potential execution of the Bula Bubble may deliver a further push to the tourism industry’s recovery from the virus crisis. However, uncertainty looms over the timing of initiation of this travel bubble amid a daily increase in coronavirus cases across different parts of the world.

Bottom Line

Kiwi Land has finally stepped into the year of optimism wherein the rollout of vaccination programmes has started to rekindle hopes for the travel sector’s revival. While the utopia of the tourism boom is much like a pie in the sky in 2021, these promising developments appear to be breathing life into the hammered travel industry.

However, only time will tell how the travel scenario will pan out amid the coronavirus immunisation drive that is likely to take a full year for completion.

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