Canberra, July 5 : International travel between Australia and New Zealand could restart as early as September if the coronavirus flare-up in Victoria state was brought under control, a Minister said.
As Australia's A$60 billion-a-year tourism industry reels from the global pandemic, the governments from both countries have discussed plans for a "travel bubble" that would allow travel across the Tasman without mandatory quarantine, The Sydney Morning Herald newsppaer said in a report on Saturday.
Simon Birmingham, Australia's Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, said that despite the flare-up of COVID-19 cases in Victoria, it was viable for quarantine-free travel between the two countries to reopen in September.
"That's a realistic time frame, however, it clearly is subject to uncertainties like the situation in Victoria and ultimately it requires the agreement of the New Zealand government as well," he said in an interview.
While travel industry groups have pushed September as a possible start date, Birmingham's comments mark the first time the Australian government has backed that as a viable timeline.
Last week, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden put the ball in Australia's court, saying it was up to the country to decide whether it would only open to New Zealand as a whole country or consider just opening some states that had COVID-19 under control, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.
New Zealand lifted all restrictions on travel and activities on June 8 after reporting no active cases of COVID-19 in the country.
It was the most popular destination for Australian travellers prior to COVID-19, with 1.5 million trips across the Tasman in 2019, which accounted for 40 per cent of all visitors to the country.
New Zealand was the second largest source of visitors to Australia in 2019 after China, with 1.4 million travellers accounting for 15 per cent of the arrivals into the country.