Sydney Opera House

Australia is a country on the verge of excellence in grappling with the covid-19 global pandemic, but excellence comes with a cost. For now, that cost is closed international travel borders, perhaps for quite some time.

After nearly achieving results which would’ve opened up the gateway for a “trans-Tasman” travel between Australia and New Zealand, unexpected spikes arose in Victoria and New South Wales, quashing hopes of near term travel, and now, for the rest of the world, the news is even worse.

Sydney Opera House

No International Travel For 2020?

At an August 10th press conference, Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, dashed hopes for a return of international travel to Australia anytime soon. His remarks were widely expected in the media, after Qantas preemptively removed most international flights through March of 2021.

In speaking on the possibility of reopening international travel borders this year, PM Morrison noted…

“I would welcome if by Christmas it were possible, but I think it’s unlikely that we will be able to move back to a restriction-free society, doubt that is going to happen, and I doubt the medical situation will enable it. It’s important that we just look, test and interrogate the medical evidence and make decisions based on that and nothing else,”

Scott Morrison, Australian PM

Hopes for early 2021 aren’t looking too good either.

According to Executive Traveller, notes in Australian federal budget proposals suggest international travel may once again be possible from January 1st, 2021, but not without 14 days of quarantine. 14 days in a government controlled facility is a period of time very few travellers can afford, particularly with the mandatory costs of circa $3000 for the quarantine period alone.

a body of water with trees and mountains in the background

Air Bridges And Fizzling Travel Bubbles

As to hopes for international travel bubbles between Australia and New Zealand known as the “trans-Tasman Bubble”, those hopes are also officially on the “back burner” as well, according to Jacinda Ardern, the New Zealand PM.

The PM, reacting to recent covid-19 spikes across Victoria and New South Wales, used no uncertain terms to express New Zealand’s complete lack of interest in any near term travel proposals.

“The trans-Tasman bubble, obviously not anytime soon, it will be on the backburner for several months.”

Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand PM

New Zealand isn’t taking a return to international travel lightly. The country demands at least 28 days without community transmission before the possibility of an air bridge will even be considered, and few countries are up to the task.

Vietnam was seen as a likely air bridge for the country, after 99 reported days without community transmission, only for a case in Danang to bring on unforeseen spikes in July which dashed those hopes as well.

When Asia and Pacific does open up, it’s likely to first be exclusive to countries in APAC, and may be quite a while before those in Europe or the Americas are invited along.

Air Bridges, travel corridors and travel bubbles are still under discussion among key trading partners throughout Asia, with early efforts including business travel between Japan and Vietnam, as well as South Korea and China. The success of these air bridges, or lack thereof, will no doubt pave the way for any reopening.

If Australia and New Zealand are on the bucket list, keep them there – they’re totally worth it – but perhaps move down the list just a bit, at least for the next year. Estimates from NZ insiders suggest 2021 isn’t even a safe bet, yet, and Australia may not be far off.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. If places like NZ don’t care about their tourism and cannot tolerate even a single case then it will be likely another year at the earliest when the entire world is vaccInated that they will reopen.

    We will see how places in Europe do with taking a middle of the road approach, taking some travelers, testing and tracing and accepting some low level of new infections.

  2. This is obviously frustrating, but I don’t blame them. We were set to visit New Zealand and Australia in November and are just waiting for travel waivers to officially cancel our itineraries. It is such a bummer, but that’s the world we live in this year.

  3. It is equally frustrating to those of us who want desperately to travel overseas but we are not allowed. The lockdowns and border closures even within Australia are more draconian than anything I could have imagined. People in state border towns need a permit to cross into the next state. I get that they are trying to protect the vulnerable people but surely this could be done by giving those people top quality PPE and restricting their movements. And even then, if i was a vulnerable person, I might chose to just say F-it and take my chances so I could ENJOY what is left of my life. The 14 day quarantine would be doable if you could do it at home. But $3000 cash to someone who uses miles and points for overseas travel is ridiculous!

  4. I’m not interested in traveling as a “tourist”. I am in a bi-national relationship with my partner in AUS and I have been unable to get an exemption to travel and cannot afford a 14 day quarantine in SYD, when my partner is in Melbourne.

  5. This so frustrating? Can we just move the hell on, why can’t the people who are scared to travel sit at home and the people who wanna say F it go! And quarantine but to be paid? Wtf is that? Why can’t we just go home and self isolate, scammers. So over this whole situation honestly, covid is nothing but a flu cmon guys let’s move it! We aren’t on earth for eternity anyway!

  6. I get it but I feel bad for the Australian tourism industry. I had to move then cancel my Australia trip and the tour operators I contacted were pretty forlorn. Super nice and flexible, but its hitting them hard. One tour operator I was going to use had filed for bankruptcy and I had to file with the bankruptcy trustee to get my money back.

  7. I couldn’t agree more with the comment section. The rest of the world is moving on however we’re walling ourselves in, to our own detriment. Paying a mandatory $3000+ for a 14 day quarantine and that too in a hotel?! And suppose we get some other sort of unforeseen virus – so would our solution be to close everything again for unforseeable future? There surely has to be a better way to manage a crisis than to lock ourselves in.

  8. This Is Absolutely Disgrace . Australian govt Donot Want People to Fly Overseas . We Want to go To See Our Parents . Australian Govt Doing the double Standard By Allowing Overseas Travel In Jan 2021 To June 2021 But Wants People To Quarantine by paying $3000 From Thier Own Pocket . By doung this this govt Wants Auzze to travel Interstate . .. This Is Absolutly Disgrace On Australian Values

  9. My daughter lives in Perth with her family and is expecting her 2nd child in late Dec. and the thought of not being able to see her or my new grandson for up to a year is excruciatingly difficult. I am a Covid survivor (29 days of awfulness, no sense of smell even now and lung damage is permanent) so I well understand the seriousness but we’re all educated by now (most of us, anyway) and are responsible enough to do the right thing. Most of us cannot afford the $3K fee or the 14 days out of travel time so…what’s the answer?

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