Travel between Australia and South Pacific nations such as New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Tahiti might soon be on the cards, following the proposal of a South Pacific travel bubble.
Australian representatives of New Caledonia Tourism, Papua New Guinea Tourism Promotion Authority, Tourism Solomons and Tahiti Tourisme have formed a working group to collaborate on the proposal and lobby governments to make it a reality.
A formal letter has been submitted by the group to the offices of both the Australian and New Zealand Prime Ministers, outlining the benefits of including the South Pacific nations in a regional travel bubble.
Benefits include the positive impact tourism has on the livelihoods of many in the South Pacific, not only in direct economic benefit, but also in its ability to unite communities and encourage the preservation of indigenous culture.
It comes as Australia and New Zealand have signalled their commitment to a COVID-safe travel zone, which has the support of business events leaders across both nations.
Andrew Cavallaro, the Australian and New Zealand market representative for Papua New Guinea Tourism Promotion Authority, said tourism is a vital source of employment and economic driver for South Pacific nations, who are heavily reliant on Australian and New Zealand visitors for their survival.
“We play a pivotal role in helping these Pacific islands find their feet again following the devastating impacts of COVID-19 and opening borders to establish a South Pacific bubble is undoubtedly the fastest and most effective means to helping them reboot,” he said.
Just 88 cases across Pacific nations
The group also outlined that to date there have been 88 cases of COVID-19 and no deaths in New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Tahiti combined.
In the letter, they also recognised any proposal for a reopening of international borders would require considerable planning and negotiation between various government bodies, along with strict control measures and enhanced health monitoring.
Caroline Brunel, Australia and New Zealand account director at Tahiti Tourisme, said the concept of a South Pacific bubble is of great importance to many people.
“We want to work together to facilitate safe travel wherever we can, and the concept of an inclusive bubble is one that works,” she said.
“We are coming together to keep the conversation going, and to assist wherever we can to make a South Pacific Bubble a reality.”