The announcement of a travel bubble agreement between Australia and New Zealand Governments commencing on 19th April has been welcomed by the tourism industry in both countries.
The Australian Tourism Export Council notes that the bubble will help to re-establish some of Australia’s long term travel relationships and marks the first step in reopening Australia’s export tourism industry to international visitors.
ATEC Managing Director Peter Shelley advised “our industry will be very happy to hear that a travel bubble has been agreed between the Australian and New Zealand governments which will see one of our most significant markets back online.
“Australian tourism businesses, like those across the world, have suffered severely with the closure of international borders and this marks an initial step towards re-establishing our $45 billion annual export industry.
“Thousands of tourism businesses across the country have suffered a severe drop in their income with the closure of international borders and many are simply holding on for announcements like this."
Shelley said a recent ATEC survey of the export industry showed Australian inbound tour operators (ITOs) were suffering the most under the international border closures with 80% operating with less than 10% of their pre-COVID revenue.
“While our tourism product supplier members are doing their best to turn to the domestic market and are working hard to make ends meet, ITOs are only staying afloat with the help of the Federal Government's travel agent grants program now that the JobKeeper subsidy has ended.
“Without the reopening of borders or the certainty provided by ongoing government support, a large number of ITOs will be out of business within months, taking with them a significant pipeline of forward bookings made by international travellers and millions of dollars in revenue.
“ITO’s are the businesses which sell Australian tourism product across the world and while they are small in number, they deliver a huge amount of business across the country, especially to regional areas which have developed strong destination appeal for international visitors.
Ngāi Tahu Tourism – owners of several popular tourism attractions in New Zealand are celebrating the opening of the trans-Tasman bubble.
Jet Boat Operations General Manager, Jolanda Cave says while there have been many positives to the past year, including the opportunity to see the domestic support shown for local businesses, the closure of the borders has been hard on the tourism industry.
“We are so excited by the announcement of a trans-Tasman bubble and to again be able to welcome our Australian manuhiri.”
Dark Sky Project Business Manager Jared Simcox says like many other tourism businesses across Aotearoa, Dark Sky Project has been impacted by the border closures.
“The business has been sustainable over the past year because of that strong domestic support. We are delighted with the opening of the trans-Tasman bubble just in time for winter which is the most spectacular time to visit Takapō.”
Franz Josef Glacier Guides Business Manager Jonathan Tyler says the trans-Tasman bubble will be hugely beneficial for Franz Josef Glacier Guides and for Te Tai o Poutini as a whole.
“We’re excited to open up again to the international market and look forward to further safe border openings in time. This will be a huge-leg up for the West Coast region.”
For Australian visitors, this will be their first chance to visit the newly opened All Blacks Experience in Auckland’s SkyCity.
The attraction opened in December and showcases what it means to be an All Black, the journey to pulling on the black jersey and the mana behind the brand.
All Blacks Experience General Manager Phil McGowan adds “with the friendly rivalry and mystique that the All Blacks brand evokes in many of our Australian friends it will be a joy to watch them practice their footy in the skills area and have the chance to experience our interactive attraction first-hand.”
Tourism Industry Aotearoa Chief Executive Chris Roberts advises “tourism operators can now take bookings with confidence and scale up their staffing. It also means marketing campaigns to the Aussies can go ahead.”
The timing means that ski regions in particular will receive a boost in the coming months. In normal times more than 70% of overseas visitors who ski in New Zealand are from Australia.
However Roberts cautions that the speed at which Australian travellers will return to New Zealand is unknown.
“Surveys have shown there is pent up demand for travel and Australians have no other options for international travel at present. But we anticipate that there will be some initial caution on both sides of the Tasman. We expect that people reuniting with family and friends will lead the way, followed by business people and holidaymakers.
“Before COVID-19, Australia was our biggest overseas market, making up about 40% of international visitors or 1.5 million out of 3.9 million annual arrivals. About a third of the arrivals coming across the Tasman were New Zealanders now living in Australia and many of the visits were to see friends and family.
Arrivals from Australia tend to stay for a shorter period and spend less while here than visitors from New Zealand’s other major international markets. Excluding airfares and some other pre-travel costs, Australian arrivals spent almost $3 billion a year in New Zealand, around 25% of the total international visitor spend in Aotearoa.
If the trans-Tasman travel bubble remains open for the remainder of 2021, Australian visitors are expected to collectively spend at least $1 billion in New Zealand this year, and potentially a lot more.
More broadly, a successful trans-Tasman travel bubble will be an important first step in reconnecting with the world.
Roberts adds “the procedures and protocols that are being put in place will be a blueprint for opening up travel from other countries as soon as it is safe to do so.
Peak industry body, the Accommodation Association says while the opening of the trans-Tasman bubble is a very welcome step in the right direction, the reality is that there will be very little real benefit for Australia’s Tourism sector in the short term.
Tailored support is still desperately needed for Sydney and Melbourne CBD properties which rely so heavily on international and corporate markets despite the opening of the two-way corridor from 19th April.
The Association warns that the initial wave of travellers to take up the travel corridor will be visiting family and friends and unlikely to drive any significant benefit to Australia’s tourism sector including hotels and motels.
Accommodation Association Chief Executive Dean Long notes “The opening of the trans-Tasman corridor is a very welcome step in the right direction but the reality is while it’s good news for the travel sector, given most travellers will be catching up with friends and families there’s very little immediate benefit for our tourism sector or our hotels and motels.
“With the end of JobKeeper and given the massive holes in the market especially in Australia’s international hubs of Sydney and Melbourne, the flow on benefits for our hotels and motels, and the many small businesses who supply them is negligible.
“There’s no doubt it will be a big kick along for consumer confidence but it doesn’t erase the need for tailored support for our accommodation sector. The reality is it’s great news for our travel sector but not so good for tourism.
“New Zealand will have a net positive gain with an open border with Australia. Australians represent over 50% of all visitors to NZ and we spend nearly $1700 per trip with the majority on their ski fields. “Total spend prior to COVID was $2.5 billion with 1.5 million Aussies visiting as at YE December 2019. Kiwis spend around $1800 per trip with 1.2 million visitors to Australia, with total spend of $2.1 billion.”
Image top: Ngai Tahu Toursim Shotover Jet Boat Operations; image centre All Blacks Experience in Auckland’s SkyCity; image above Sydney Tower Eye
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