With just 150 days remaining until the end of 2020, many prospective travellers will be wondering if their once-in-a-lifetime (or annual) trip to escape the northern winter will be feasible?
These are the key questions and answers.
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Can I go to Australia or New Zealand now, if I agree to quarantine on arrival?
No, unless you are in one of a tightly defined list of categories. The best position to be in is to be a citizen or permanent resident, or an immediate family member of one.
Both countries have long-established strict border controls, exploiting their status as distant islands, and both are very keen to protect the health of the people against the spread of coronavirus.
In the sad circumstances of the death or critical illness of a close family member, you may be able to travel. “We will prioritise your application,” say the Australian authorities.
One other exception: a traveller transiting Australia for 72 hours or less, or someone with a “confirmed flight out of New Zealand within 24 hours to a port which will accept them”. There are very strict conditions for transit travellers and you will not be able to indulge in anything like tourism.
Everyone else is warned: “If you are not granted an exemption, you should not continue with your travel plans, as you will not be permitted to board a flight to Australia.”
New Zealand has a similar policy.
And if I am allowed in?
“All travellers arriving in Australia, including Australian citizens, must quarantine for 14 days at a designated facility, such as a hotel in their port of arrival,” says the government in Canberra.
For New Zealand, the Foreign Office says: “New Zealand’s border is closed to most travellers and entry is strictly controlled.
“All arrivals are tested for Covid-19 and a 14-day managed quarantine or isolation is mandatory.”
You will also, of course, have to undergo the same restrictions as the local population – which, for the Australia state of Victoria, currently includes a severe lockdown.
When will things change and tourism be allowed again?
There is no clarity on when any decisions on the international borders will be made, let alone what changes may be introduced.
Relaxation of restrictions will depend on a wide range of unknowns, including:
- infection rates worldwide and in the prospective traveller’s country.
- the development and availability of a vaccine.
- propensity to open borders in order to stimulate the economy and protect jobs.
The last is the one most within the control of the governments in Canberra and Wellington, but currently neither Australia nor New Zealand will want to risk importing cases of coronavirus by allowing unfettered access.
Tourism Australia’s managing director, Philippa Harrison, said: “International travel has effectively been at a standstill since Australia announced the closure of its borders on 20 March 2020.
“Attracting international travellers will form a critical part of the tourism restart and recovery in Australia, but will likely be further down the track.
“We just don’t know when international restrictions will start to be lifted, nor how the process of restoring international travel will play out. But we will be ready to go back when the time is right.”
Haydn Wrath, managing director of the tailor-made specialist company, Travel Nation, is currently in Nelson on the North Island of New Zealand.
“There is divided opinion here between people concerned about the huge social and economic impact of long-term isolation who want to redefine what success in managing Covid 19 looks like – eradication vs manageable risk – and of course others who are happy to sit it out.
“Though a large chunk of the Australia and New Zealand’s economies are derived from inbound tourism, they have so far been relatively lucky as the travel restrictions started at around the same time as the peak season was trailing off.
“Pressure to open borders and allow visitor in will naturally mount as the southern hemisphere summer starts in the next couple of months.”
Tim Jeans, former managing director of Monarch, says he believes the Australasian market may recover sooner than many people think.
“While beach resorts in the Mediterranean may take a decade to recover to 2019 levels, there will be an appetite for people to go long haul,” he says.
“Partly that is driven by the understandable desire to visit friends and relations, but there is also a latent demand for ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ trips.”
In terms of fares, New Zealand and, in particular, Australia, have long offered some of the lowest price-per-mile rates in the world on routes from the UK – with sub-£500 return tickets sometimes available on airlines based in mainland China.
Even premier-league airlines such as Cathay Pacific and Emirates have offers extremely competitive fares. But Mr Jeans says: “If you’re flying people who are non-discretionary then you don’t have to offer them fares of £700.”
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