Japan, South Korea, Singapore named as potential travel bubble destinations

Flights will restart between major cities on either side of the Tasman. Picture: Karleen Minney
Flights will restart between major cities on either side of the Tasman. Picture: Karleen Minney

Singapore, Japan and South Korea could be among the next destinations to open for Australians to travel to, as preparations begin for the first quarantine-free travel across the ditch.

As the opening of the long-awaited New Zealand and Australia travel bubble was finally announced for April 19, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the Asian destinations were being "regularly assessed" by the chief medical officer for their viability as the next location for a controlled border re-opening.

Flights will restart between major cities on either side of the Tasman, but Air New Zealand confirmed Canberra would miss out.

Qantas added two new routes from Queensland but confirmed there were no plans to touch down in the ACT.

Canberra Airport chief executive Stephen Byron said discussions would continue, and was hopeful a direct line to New Zealand would be on the way to help boost business back to pre-pandemic levels.

"This state-by-state approach is intelligent and measured, and it signals the end of border closures," he said.

"Given the ACT's impeccable response to the pandemic, we would hope to be a consideration for the New Zealand government."

On Tuesday, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern revealed the keenly anticipated date for scrapping the quarantine requirement for Australian travellers.

For about six months Kiwi arrivals have been able to visit Australia without undertaking quarantine.

"The trans-Tasman bubble represents the start of a new chapter in our COVID response and recovery. One that people have worked so hard for," Mr Ardern said.

"I know families, friends and significant parts of our economy will welcome it as I certainly do."

Ms Ardern defended her government's tardiness in opening up, saying this was "exactly the right time" to do so.

Australia provides more visitors than any other country to New Zealand, and the announcement is expected to start a stampede across the Tasman.

"[This is] the first of many more steps to come, I believe, as we get back to a more normal position," he said.

The Prime Minister said Singapore, Japan and South Korea were being assessed as potential future travel bubbles.

"At this stage we're not in a position to move forward on any of those at this point," he said.

The Australian and NZ borders have been shut to almost all non-citizens since March last year.

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Ms Ardern also announced a traffic light system to guide Kiwis while travelling overseas, saying they may be subjected to prolonged stays in Australia or be required to quarantine on return in the event of outbreaks.

"Quarantine-free travel will not be what it was pre-COVID-19, and those undertaking travel will do so under the guidance of 'flyer beware'," she said.

Travellers will not be required to produce a negative test before jetting off, though that may be added in the case of outbreaks.

The travel industry has welcomed the news, but said the direct benefits would be minimal as most people wanted to visit family and friends.

"Given the massive holes in the market ... the flow on benefits for our hotels and motels, and the many small businesses who supply them, is negligible," Accommodation Association chief executive Dean Long said.

Australian Federation of Travel Agents chair Tom Manwaring said it wouldn't increase business, but would provide much-needed confidence.

"It's not a massive increase in business and our sector still desperately needs support but it is a much needed step in the right direction," he said

"However, we urge both the Australian and the New Zealand governments to do all they can to ensure now the corridor is open that it stays open."

- with AAP

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