Preflight health checks and passenger limits could be included in a trans-Tasman bubble, as other countries offer discounted plane tickets and accommodation.
Preflight health checks and passenger limits could be included in a trans-Tasman bubble, as other countries offer discounted plane tickets and accommodation.

Revealed: First look at Australia’s ‘travel bubble’ rules

Preflight health checks, strict contact tracing requirements, extra aircraft cleaning, and passenger number limits form the blueprint for reopening borders between Australia and New Zealand.

A draft proposal for a "safe travel zone" developed by a team of 40 experts making up the Trans-Tasman Safe Border Group will be handed to both governments by early June.

The group's co-chair Margy Osmond said experts were considering "various layers of protections" including eligibility for travel, management of traveller flows, capacity and distancing, enhanced cleaning protocols and education campaigns.

"It's critically important that people can have confidence in the safety of a trans-Tasman safe travel zone, and we are poring over every detail and aspect of the customer journey to find a safe and practical way forward, for the review and consideration of our respective governments," Ms Osmond said.

"We have an opportunity now to work together to show how we can support tourism on both sides of the Tasman and do it safely.

The expert group is also looking at contact tracing requirements once people reached their destination.

"New Zealand and Australia have worked really hard to get where they are in containing the spread of COVID-19 and both of our countries have been successful to date," said Auckland Airport's General Manager Aeronautical Commercial and group co-chair Scott Tasker.

"New Zealanders and Australians are some of the most frequent travellers in the world and we are very fortunate to now be in a position where our governments can even contemplate the safe reopening of the trans-Tasman border, for the benefit of our communities and economies," he said.

"Our aim is to put forward a detailed set of recommendations that safely manage any health risks, while also allowing Kiwis and Australians to travel to each country without the need for a 14-day quarantine," said Mr Tasker.

Co-ordinated by the Australia New Zealand Leadership Forum, the Trans-Tasman Safe Border Group is made up of 11 government agencies, six airports, two airlines, and includes health experts and airline, airport and border agency representatives from both countries.

Prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, New Zealand was the most popular travel destination for Australians with 1.5 million visitors, accounting for 40 per cent of all foreign visitors.

Likewise, Australia was the most popular holiday spot for Kiwis.

New Zealand is Australia's second largest source market for visitors (behind China), with 1.4 million visitors in 2019.

 

 

Meanwhile, discounted plane tickets and free accommodation are among perks that will be offered to travellers as countries ease border restrictions.

While Australians are banned from leaving the country in a bid to control coronavirus transmission rates, international travel is beginning to look clearer as the COVID-19 curve is flattened.

Here's when you might be able to visit some of your favourite destinations, and what deals are on offer.

 

 

ASIA

 

JAPAN

Japan is reportedly considering a ¥1.35 trillion ($18.9 billion) tourism package in a bid to revive the domestic tourism industry.

Part of this is believed to be travel subsidisation, where the Japanese government may pay for half of a tourist's plane ticket.

However, it has not yet certain whether this move would apply just to domestic travellers, or if it will include international visitors too.

Japan's Tourism Agency estimated 2,900 foreign travellers visited the country in April, down 99.9 per from one year earlier.

It is believed the government could begin to issue travel coupons from late July.

 

 

Australians might be allowed to return to Bali somewhere between June and October. Picture: iStock
Australians might be allowed to return to Bali somewhere between June and October. Picture: iStock

 

 

BALI

While no official date has been given for when Australia's favourite holiday island will re-open to tourists, Indonesia's tourism minister indicated it could begin to welcome visitors somewhere between June and October.

The head representative of the Bank of Indonesia in Bali recently called for a travel bubble to be established with Australia.

 

 

 

 

 

THAILAND

While domestic flights recommenced on May 15, Thailand's international flight ban has been extended until June 30.

But Thai authorities are considering whether to waive quarantine requirements for travellers from low-risk countries once the restrictions are lifted.

"This concept involves identifying low-risk areas in Thailand and overseas to create a sort of international tourist bridge or pipeline linking travellers between these two areas," the Tourism Authority of Thailand's deputy governor for international marketing Chattan Kunjara Na Ayudhya told The Straits Times.

 

 

Travellers might be able to get discounted plane tickets to Japan under a tourism plan being considered by the government. Picture: iStock
Travellers might be able to get discounted plane tickets to Japan under a tourism plan being considered by the government. Picture: iStock

 

 

VIETNAM

Domestic flights have restarted in Vietnam, and the country's flag carrier is reportedly in talks with the government to resume some international flights in June.

Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT) director Nguyen Trung Khanh recently said the country was preparing plans to welcome travellers from countries that had managed to contain the coronavirus.

He said the Administration would propose relaxing travel restrictions and relaunching promotions if key markets had managed to flatten the curve.

"If this happens, Southeast and Northeast Asia will be the first markets to be targeted by VNAT's promotion programs in the fourth quarter," Mr Khanh said.

 

 

 

EUROPE

 

ITALY

Italy's southern island recently announced a number of incentives in a bid to win back visitors.

Travellers will have half of their plane ticket paid for by the Sicilian government, as well as one out of every nights spent at a hotel.

Free tickets to museum and archaeological sites will also be offered under the $A82 million plan.

It is not yet known when Sicily will reopen to tourism, nor when the travel vouchers will be available.

Those eager to visit the island should keep an eye on the Visit Sicily website.

European tourists will be able to visits Italy from June 3, but foreign visitors have not yet been given a date.

 

 

The Sicilian government has said it will pay for half the cost of plane tickets to the island. Picture: iStock
The Sicilian government has said it will pay for half the cost of plane tickets to the island. Picture: iStock

 

 

UK

Britain has not officially closed its borders, but travel to the country has been strongly discouraged.

It recently emerged that as air travel begins to return to normal, Australians may be exempt from a proposed 14-day quarantine on entry into the United Kingdom, under plans being debated by government MPs.

 

 

 

 

 

FRANCE

France hopes to begin easing border restrictions for European travel from June 15.

However, the country recently extended its emergency measures until July 24, meaning any arrivals will have to self-quarantine for 14 days.

It is not yet known when France will ease its international travel restrictions.

 

 

GREECE

Aiming to entice travellers, Greek authorities will introduce cheaper tickets for sea travel from the mainland to Greek islands on June 1.

Greece reportedly aims to open its borders to tourists from certain countries by June 15.

Tourism minister Harry Theroharis said a list of approved countries would be issued by the end of May.

 

 

 

It is not yet known when France will ease its international travel restrictions. Picture: iStock
It is not yet known when France will ease its international travel restrictions. Picture: iStock

 

SPAIN

Tourists will again be able to visit Spain without having to spend two weeks in lockdown from the beginning of July.

 

 

THE AMERICAS

 

CANADA

Canada's borders will remain closed until at least June 23.

 

MEXICO

Mexico recently said it would ease quarantine restrictions some regions, and would aim to reopen the rest of the country in June.

In the popular holiday hotspot of Cancun, the local hotel association has announced a number of perks for tourists.

The "Come to Cancun 2x1" offer will give tourists two free nights accommodation for every two nights paid. And there might even be plane ticket discounts, according to local reports.

 

PERU

Peru has extended its border closures until June 30.

 

EXPLAINER: WHAT AUSSIES CAN AND CANNOT DO

CAN I TRAVEL OVERSEAS?

On 24 March, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a ban on Australians travelling overseas under the Biosecurity Act 2015 to help prevent travellers returning to the nation with the new coronavirus.

There are limited exceptions: for example, to allow people to return home if their normal place of residence is overseas. This is managed by the Department of Home Affairs.

Other exemptions, which Australians need to apply for online, include if the travel is part of the response to the COVID-19 outbreak, essential for work or if the person needs to receive urgent medial treatment which is not available in Australia.

Travelling on compassionate or humanitarian grounds, or urgent and unavoidable personal business, and if it is in the national interest is also included.

However, even with an exemption, it could prove difficult for Australians to physically fly overseas, with a reduction in air traffic and limited flights available.

As a result of the nationwide travel ban, overseas arrivals slumped 60 per cent in March due to the virus border restrictions. It has been the largest drop ever in international visitors.

WHEN CAN I BOOK MY NEXT TRIP?

Australian Tourism Industry Council executive director Simon Westaway said earlier this month "all the signs are pointing to green shoots of domestic travel from June".

In terms of international travel, he added "New Zealand is probably going to be the most attractive and most likely the [first] international destination to open up for Australia over the medium term".

New Zealand became one of the first countries to lock down its border in a substantial way on March 14.

"We're obviously close but there's some good quarantine and customs arrangements in place and you'd think just with some health management over the top, that market could probably open up more quickly," Mr Westaway said.

However, Flight Centre boss Graham Turner this week called for an imminent restart to some international tourism.

He said it was "devastating" to hear Australia's Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy say restrictions on international travel would stay in place for "some time".

Mr Turner argued it was likely a bilateral agreement could be reached to see travel between Australia, New Zealand and other Asian countries.

"I'm pretty confident that will be back within the next couple of months," he said.

"Even somewhere like Vietnam … there is no reason why we shouldn't be flying to places like that on a point-to-point basis in the next few months."

CAN I RETURN TO AUSTRALIA FROM OVERSEAS?

The Australian Government has extended its special partnership with Qantas and Virgin Australia to help bring more Australians home.

Additional commercial flights are scheduled to depart London and Los Angeles until early June.

It follows Qantas and Virgin offering commercial flights from four key international cities in April: London, Los Angeles, Hong Kong and Auckland.

The locations were selected to provide access to the largest number of overseas Australians possible.

On May 8, the government announced it committed an additional $50 million to continue its network of international flights to help Australians return home.

Details of these flights can be accessed on the Smart Traveller website.

In addition, the government has facilitated flights from a wide range of countries where commercial flights are not available. It will continue to explore options to facilitate flights from targeted destinations in coming weeks.

The government has advised Australians planning to return home can still transit through Kuala Lumpur, Doha, Los Angeles, Paris, London or Tokyo.

WHO CAN FLY INTO AUSTRALIA?

You can travel to Australia if you are an Australian citizen, a permanent resident, an immediate family member of an Australian citizen or permanent resident or are a New Zealand citizen usually resident in Australia.

If you are an immediate family member holding a temporary visa you will need to provide the government with evidence of your relationship.

Travellers who have a compassionate or compelling reason to travel to Australia will need to have an exemption from the Australian Border Force Commissioner.

According to Smart Traveller, the Commissioner of the Australian Border Force (ABF) may consider an additional exemption in relation to the travel restrictions currently in place for:

• Foreign nationals travelling at the invitation of the Australian Commonwealth Government for the purpose of assisting in the COVID-19 response or whose entry would be in the national interest

• Critical medical services, including air ambulance and delivery of supplies, that regularly arrive into Australia from international ports

• People with critical skills (for example, medical specialists, engineers, marine pilots and crews) by exception

• Diplomats accredited to Australia and currently resident in Australia, and their immediate family

​• Case-by-case exceptions for humanitarian or compassionate reasons.

Exemptions must be granted prior to travelling to Australia.

DO I HAVE TO QUARANTINE WHEN RETURNING TO AUSTRALIA?

Yes, Australians returning home must undertake a 14-day quarantine in a designated facility, such as a hotel, at the first port of arrival in the country.

Australians are reminded to factor this requirement in for any domestic travel bookings.

The quarantine period is necessary to protect Australians from COVID-19.

Originally published as Revealed: First look at Australia's 'travel bubble' rules


Structural damage a concern after fire in business hub

Premium Content Structural damage a concern after fire in business hub

A BUILDING sustained significant damage in the early-morning blaze.

Woman dies after being found with critical injuries

Premium Content Woman dies after being found with critical injuries

A FAMILY member found the woman injured in her North Coast home earlier this...

Crews battle fire at shopping complex

Premium Content Crews battle fire at shopping complex

Firefighters were called to reports of smoke coming from a building