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Safe travel bubble talks ‘encouraging’

Wednesday 6 May 2020 | Written by Katrina Tanirau | Published in Economy

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Safe travel bubble talks ‘encouraging’
Halatoa Fua.

Cook Islands is looking forward to hosting Kiwis and Aussies in the not too distant future.

There needs to be a realistic expectation that opening Cook Islands borders to travellers from Australia and New Zealand is not something that is going to happen in the immediate future, says Cook Islands Tourism chief executive Halatoa Fua.

However, Fua who is also South Pacific Tourism Organisation interim chair, is following closely and with interest, the discussions that have started between New Zealand and Australia about reopening borders between the two countries.

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New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced plans for a trans-Tasman Covid-safe travel zone “as soon as it is safe to do so”.

The idea of exploring opportunities to extend the concept to Pacific island nations, including Cook Islands was also mooted.

“Once we have established effective travel arrangements across the Tasman, we will also explore opportunities to expand the concept to members of our broader Pacific family, enabling travel between Australia, New Zealand and Pacific island countries,” the leaders said in a joint statement.

“We will work with interested Pacific countries on parameters and arrangements to manage the risks.”

Fua said the Cook Islands government has noted that in due course Australia and New Zealand intend including Cook Islands and other Pacific Islands in discussions about a safe travel bubble.

“We in the Cook Islands have also been looking and planning for a time when we reopen our borders, in particular to New Zealand with whom we share a very special relationship as a realm country.”

Fua said the government is determined to continue to keep Covid-19 out of the Cook Islands, and has noted how successful New Zealand in particular has been in combating the virus.

“We also know how much New Zealanders and Australians like to holiday in our country – they have been our biggest customers in the past - and our visitor industry is looking forward to hosting them again. But safely, and in the not too distant future,” he said.

“We know that world-wide tourism and international travel has taken a very big hit from this coronavirus, but we also believe that little pockets like ourselves currently free of the virus, and working with other like-minded countries in the region – exercising caution, should be able to open up again."

The New Zealand and Australian prime ministers said a trans-Tasman Covid-safe travel zone would be put in place once it is safe to do so and necessary health, transport and other protocols had been developed and met, to ensure the protection of public health.

They said a trans-Tasman Covid-safe travel zone would be mutually beneficial, assisting their trade and economic recovery, helping kick-start the tourism and transport sectors, enhancing sporting contacts, and reuniting families and friends.

“We need to be cautious as we progress this initiative. Neither country wants to see the virus rebound so it’s essential any such travel zone is safe. Relaxing travel restrictions at an appropriate time will clearly benefit both countries and demonstrates why getting on top of the virus early is the best strategy for economic recovery.”