Tahiti La Ora Beach Resort by Sofitel
Tahiti La Ora Beach Resort by Sofitel

A coalition of tourism bodies representing South Pacific nations has been formed to generate positive dialogue between their respective national governments and Australia for a safe mutual travel permission to the region.

The working group is comprised of officials from New Caledonia Tourism, Papua New Guinea Tourism Promotion Authority, Tourism Solomons and Tahiti Tourisme – with stakeholders from each nation eager to see Australians and New Zealanders permitted to holiday in the region via the creation of a South Pacific travel bubble.

Arguments put forward by the group stem from the positive economic and social impact such permissions would provide for South Pacific people, citing the ability of tourism to “unite communities”, provide job security and to place a greater focus on environmental protection. For some of the included countries, tourism is the leading industry for employment. Australians also represent the strongest and most important inbound market and the highest source of international arrivals.

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The group says that opening borders and permitting travel between Australia and its South Pacific neighbours presents the easiest way the region’s two most prosperous nations can help in the aftermath of pandemic-induced lockdowns.

COVID-19 accounted for 88 cases in total across all four South Pacific nations involved in the coalition, with zero deaths. The group acknowledges strict health measures, contact tracing and social distancing will be enforced for all visitors under an approved travel bubble.

Papua New Guinea Tourism Promotion Authority Australian / New Zealand Market Representative, Andrew Cavallaro, said tourism was a vitally important source of employment for South Pacific nations.

“With the aim of prompting and quickly progressing these conversations at a government level, we have established a collaborative working group of South Pacific tourism boards to lobby for a South Pacific Bubble akin to the proposed Trans-Tasman Bubble currently being discussed.

“We hope that by submitting letters of endorsement to the Prime Ministers of Australia and New Zealand, and to both governments’ Foreign Affairs and Pacific Ministers, that consideration is given for a reopening of borders between Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific as soon as is safe and practicable,” he added.