‘Hope restored’: Travel bubble’s massive windfall for Qld
A trans-Tasman travel bubble will deliver a $600 million windfall to Queensland's battered tourism industry as travellers dare to dream of life after the pandemic.
Offering a beacon of hope to a tourism industry pushed to the brink, it was yesterday announced that quarantine-free travel between Australia and New Zealand would resume on April 19, with Queensland set to be one of the major beneficiaries.
Already the Queensland government is in the advanced stages of negotiations with several major airlines to secure flights for tourism destinations across the state, while the Gold Coast has locked in the resumption of daily flights from Auckland in a move worth an estimated
$50 million for the Glitter Strip.
After a year of doom and gloom, Queensland Tourism Industry Council CEO Daniel Gschwind said the announcement was "fantastic news" and invited New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to travel across the ditch for a Queensland holiday.
For decades New Zealand was Queensland's biggest international tourism market, before being pipped by China five years ago.
However, with the return of Chinese travellers unlikely any time soon, New Zealand will again take top billing for Queensland's decimated international tourism sector.
In 2019, almost 500,000 Kiwis visited Queensland, injecting more than $600 million into the state's economy, according to statistics from Tourism Research Australia.
With the pent-up demand from travel-starved Kiwis, that figure could explode in the coming months in a win-win situation for both Queensland and New Zealand.
Mr Gschwind said the bubble announcement was a significant step towards the reopening of the international markets that contributed more than $5 billion a year to the economy before COVID.
"It restores some hope of a future that has international travel in it," he said.
"Jacinda (Ardern) deserves a holiday so maybe she can come and visit Queensland for herself."
Tourism and Events Queensland CEO Leanne Coddington said work was already underway to target Kiwis in a bid to lure then to the Sunshine State.
"New Zealand has long held strong as one of Queensland's most important international visitor markets and the significance of this travel bubble for Queensland's tourism industry can't be underestimated," she said.
"It will undoubtedly be a competitive market and we plan to show Kiwis that Queensland has so much to offer."
Even before yesterday's announcement, the Queensland government had been in negotiations with major airlines to return flights to the state's key tourist destinations.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk called the announcement "a great milestone on our road to economic recovery" and said she had personally discussed the return of flights with Ms Ardern.
"We know that more flights to our key destinations means more dollars for struggling tourism operators throughout the state - that's why we're working with airlines to bring back direct flights from New Zealand as soon as possible," she said.
Brisbane Airport is expecting up to 39 services per week in the first week of the trans-Tasman bubble, split between Air New Zealand and Qantas, while Gold Coast Airport yesterday announced the return of daily Auckland flights to start later this month.
The Sunshine Coast will recommence flights to Auckland on June 28.
Destination Gold Coast CEO Patricia O'Callaghan said New Zealanders were drawn to the Glitter Strip and would be welcomed with open arms.
"They love our warm weather, beautiful beaches, theme parks, shopping and dining scene," she said.
"An annual Gold Coast holiday is a tradition for thousands of Kiwi families who will now be able to flee winter and soak up our sunshine or visit the 50,000 Kiwis calling the Gold Coast home."
Ms Ardern flagged the possibility of specific conditions of travel for Queenslanders due to the recent outbreak and ensuing lockdown in the state.
"While Queensland has recently undergone an outbreak … (this) looks contained and cabinet believes any residual risk can be managed," she said.
"The Director-General of Health will give final confirmation of any conditions of travel that may affect Queensland by next Wednesday."
She also said travel was returning but it would not be what it was pre-COVID.
"While we absolutely wish to encourage family and friends to reunite and visitors to come and enjoy the hospitality New Zealand is ready and waiting to offer, those undertaking travel on either side of the ditch will do so … [under] the guidance of flyer beware," she said.
"People will need to plan for the possibility of travel being disrupted if there is an outbreak."
She said if there was a COVID-19 case in Australia, New Zealand would have three possible responses when it comes to flights and access to its border, with a worst-case scenario leading to the suspension of flights.
Originally published as 'Hope restored': Travel bubble's massive windfall for Qld