Australia confirms Pacific Islands are likely the next travel bubble


    The Pacific Islands are being tipped as the next phase in Australia’s travel bubble but the plan hinges on the effectiveness of the nation’s vaccination drive.

    At a News Corp Australia travel event, Trade and Tourism Minister Dan Tehan said the federal and New Zealand governments were deliberating expanding quarantine-free travel to include a number of Pacific destinations.

    This could allow Australians to holiday in destinations such as the Cook Islands, New Caledonia or Tahiti.

    “That once again would be a great signal of confidence that the bubbles can work,” Tehan said in response to the discussions.

    “Obviously we are going to have to monitor what is occurring in our region and to see if there are future opportunities.”

    Tehan noted vaccinating the majority of the population was paramount to borders reopening.

    Off the back of Victoria’s snap seven-day lockdown, Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce, who also attended the event in Sydney, flagged a national framework needed to be in place to prevent domestic border closures, which were damaging travel confidence.

    “We do need certainty on domestic borders about when they close and when they open, and have common definition of hot spots,” Joyce said.

    “We have been asking for that for a year now. It would make life a lot easier.”

    News Corp Australia executive chairman Michael Miller agreed a national response framework, committed to by all states and territories, needed to be implemented in combination with a robust vaccination rollout.

    Joyce said vaccines were also the “passport to international travel”.

    Qantas said roughly 22 per cent of its domestic operations had been hit by the latest shutdown of Australia’s second most populous state, but flagged a quick snap back.

    “While the lockdown in Victoria will obviously prevent people from travelling while it’s in place, we’ve seen markets recover from these snap lockdowns faster than they did last year,” a Qantas spokesman said.

    Tehan said Australians needed to spend big in order to boost the domestic tourism market, which has been hammered by the lockout of international visitors.

    “Take that holiday and spend big,” he said.

    “You are not spending big overseas so spend big here.”

    A News Corp study found 58 per cent of Australians were “just a nudge away” from resuming travel – a prime opportunity for tourism operators to attract customers for a domestic holiday.

    Qantas has also stepped up its push to incentivise Australians to get the jab, unveiling a competition that will see families of four in each state win a year worth of free flights.

    Joyce also said Accor, an accommodation partner of Qantas, would give each winner one million points for hotel bookings.

    Tehan said any incentive to get people vaccinated would be welcomed by the federal government.