Written by Nick Endean
Hello, travel, where have you been?
Back in mid-2020 there was a lot of hopeful talk about what a trans-Tasman travel bubble would look like and what it could bring to help boost our flailing economy here in New Zealand. The doom and gloom of the lockdown landscape was over and hopes of saviour were met with great cheer and elation.
Many predicted that our tourism sector would be saved with the injection of thousands of Aussie holiday makers keen to spend their effortlessly earned subsidy cheques in our country's cities and resort towns. Fast forward nearly 1 year, and here we are, a few days into “the bubble” becoming a reality!
In this post, we take a look at how the economy might benefit from a travel bubble, what it could mean for people looking to move to New Zealand to work, and where we go from here in terms of a wider de-restriction and the return of international travellers.
So, let’s get into it! Exciting news in the last week or so, that airlines will again return to providing regular “domestic” flights across the ditch to Australia and to New Zealand. We’ve now extended our family of 5 million to around 30 million! Strewth!!
The thought of tens of thousands of Australians visiting our shores will undoubtedly have tourism bosses rubbing their hands with anticipation of what is likely to be a busy season.
Our Aussie cousins spent close to $3bn in New Zealand in 2019, and with this year's ski season on the horizon, many of the country's resort towns will be looking for large uptakes in revenue.
To get some perspective on this spending, though, we might look towards the total that Kiwis provided the Australian economy travelling the other way in 2019 as that also came close to $3bn. Some argue then, that the money coming in will also be going out and that the quick gains we receive here in New Zealand will be lost just as fast to Australia’s economy in the off-set.
How this will unfurl in our post-pandemic world is yet to be seen but the immediate benefits to the towns and cities of New Zealand cannot be argued with.
From hotels to taxi cabs and cafes to adventure operators, everyone that’s left will get a small injection, a lifeline that could keep them in business through the winter and beyond until larger, more widespread, international travel is back in business.
Here in Queenstown, the local economy, fed primarily by tourists to the area, has had to get by with the comparatively slim pickings offered by domestic Kiwi travel. The doors of many operators and hoteliers have been closed due to the downturn in numbers coming into the district.
Businesses that have managed to hang on through a bare summer now have an opportunity to start rebuilding, small steps at first, but steps forward none-the-less. In particular, the ski industry in this area is looking forward to a season of close-to-full operating capacity. Unlike last year's domestic-only, weekend operations, NZ Ski are offering full season passes with great early discounts from June 2021.
No one is out of the woods yet but the first sight of ‘foreign’ tourists will no doubt bring back some of the buzz that we associate with busy streets and packed out restaurants.
Although, having busy towns and cities does bring with it some natural issues. One of these is having and finding people to work in the industries that need them most.
In the aftermath of the pandemic, and as a direct result of borders being closed, New Zealand employers have evidently found themselves without the ability to hire people with the right skills for the jobs they need filling.
Now, though, with the travel bubble opening and as long as a potential employee is in Australia, employers in New Zealand can request work visas through standard work visa applications.
This not only opens the doorway to Australians and resident visa holders, but also migrants living in Oz on work visas, as they too will have the chance to apply for positions and move to New Zealand provided they follow the standard visa processes.
This is excellent news for anyone wanting to move to New Zealand, but, for now, it will only be accessible to those residing in Australia. Any news of when the wider restrictions may be lifted is still some time away.
If you’re looking to move to New Zealand and think that working here is for you, be sure to sign up for our newsletter with The Kiwi Kit for up-to-date, relevant information about “jumping the ditch.”
What travel might resemble for the remainder of 2021 is unclear, but we can look to other countries to see how they’re coping with the pandemic to get some ideas. While the world still recovers from COVID-19, the wider, long-haul travel restrictions will undoubtedly stay in place to keep people and economies safer.
As we get a grip on vaccinations, and cases start to decrease, we can have hope that people will begin to travel once more.
Many places are starting to see light at the end of the tunnel despite the third and fourth waves of infections in other parts of the world. In mainland China, where the outbreak first took place, there have been no significant, reported rises in cases of COVID-19 in over a year.
In Singapore too, since September 2020, there have been no significant increases in cases. So, with this in mind, the possibility of traveling to and from countries like these, showing promising signs of little-to-no disease, is something of a next step. What hurdles still stand in the way will have to be cleared by our governing powers, but what we see now happening is promising for many.
The impact of events throughout 2020 is not likely to be undone by any amount of travelling anywhere in the world, but small steps forward give a platform from which to build on for a new future.
The New Zealand Government, having managed COVID-19 as well as they did, now find themselves with the ability to offer quarantine free travel to and from Australia and for that we should be extremely grateful. I know I am.