International travel is looking likely to return in the first half of next year, with COVID-safe Asian countries looking to be top of the list, a top minister has revealed.
Trade and Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham has flagged the potential to reopen the country’s borders to the Asia Pacific region within months.
Mr Birmingham said any decisions will come down to accessibility and coronavirus case numbers.
Trade and Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham confirmed he is in talks with Singapore’s trade officials over a possible travel bubble (pictured: a tourist eats a Chinese bun in Chinatown in Singapore)
‘Proximity matters’, Mr Birmingham told the Australian Financial Review on Saturday.
‘It’s easier to envisage how international travel will work [next year] – where access from Australia is direct – into a country with a very low infection rate,’ he said.
New Zealand was Australia’s most visited country in the year ending June 2019.
Australia has already opened its borders to allow people from New Zealand to travel without quarantining.
But it’s uncertain when Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will remove quarantine requirements for Australian travellers.
Meanwhile Singapore has already opened its borders to Australians, even lifting a ban on Victorians from November 6.
Australia has already opened its borders to allow people from New Zealand to travel here without quarantining (Pictured: passengers arrive at Sydney on October 16 after border restrictions were eased)
Travellers no longer have to undergo quarantine if they pass a negative coronavirus test.
The move is part of a bid to revitalise the country’s once-bustling aviation hub Changi airport.
‘All these are important moves to ready ourselves, so that when the world is ready to travel again, Changi Airport will thrive and Singapore Airlines will soar again,’ the nation’s Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung said.
Mr Birmingham confirmed he has been in talks with the country’s trade officials to negotiate an agreement.
‘I’ve had another conversation recently with my Singaporean counterpart. Singapore nationals have a very low incidence of COVID at present. If there are demonstrably safe pathways [for travel between the nations], then that will be considered in time,’ he said.
Japanese authorities are also preparing to open their borders in April ahead of the rescheduled 2021 Olympic Games (pictured, Tokyo)
Japanese authorities are also preparing to open their borders in April ahead of the rescheduled 2021 Olympic Games.
Government officials reopened to Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan and six other countries in November for people with travel exemptions.
While another close neighbour and Australian tourism hotspot potentially ready to reopen is Fiji.
Officials are developing a coronavirus safety plan for when trade officials negotiate an arrangement, reported Travel Weekly.
Tourism Fiji CEO Matt Stoeckel told the Travel DAZE 2020 conference this week the timeline for borders reopening is still uncertain.
‘The truth is we don’t know when borders will reopen,’ he said.
‘It is, of course, a policy decision – a policy decision between Australia and Fiji’s government – but I’ll tell you this: Fiji would love to see Australian visitors back in the country, and I’m sure all Australians would love an opportunity to travel over to Fiji.’
While another close neighbour and Australian tourism hotspot potentially ready to reopen is Fiji (pictured: a female tourist in a bikini stands in front of a waterfall at Fiji)
The island paradise is Australia’s tenth most popular destination, with around 345,000 travellers between 2018-19.
The same destinations were highlighted as potential travel destinations by Sydney Airpor CEO Geoff Culbert last month.
‘These are places that have done a good job (during the pandemic) and we have confidence in their health systems,’ he said.
A travel ban remains in place in Australia after international borders closed on March 20, with residents required to secure an exemption from the Department of Home Affairs to leave the country.