Easier travel from Australia to New Zealand could begin by December 2020, with the prospect of 'travel bubbles' to the likes of Singapore, Japan and South Korea under discussion for 2021 – although trips to the USA and Europe are probably off the cards until 2022.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has confirmed ongoing discussions with a handful of self-contained Asian countries would likely shape the next stage of Australia's re-opening, following a COVID-safe corridor to New Zealand.
"Further afield, places like South Korea, Singapore and Japan, we have had good discussions with them but I think that is a bit further off," Morrison said on Sunday, although he warned "we have to go cautiously on this, very, very cautiously. Covid-19 hasn’t gone anywhere. It’s still there, and it is no less aggressive today than it was six months ago."
Pacific Island nations including Fiji, Vanuatu and New Caledonia may also find their way onto a shortlist of holiday destinations.
"I have talked to Pacific leaders, they are keen but we also want to ensure that we get no COVID transmission into those Pacific Island communities," Morrison said. "Their health systems are different and we have got to be very careful about the risk and they want us to be careful also."
Australia-New Zealand travel
The weekend also saw Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham suggest that New Zealand would open up to Australian travellers, without hotel quarantine at either end of the journey, before the year is out.
"Work continues on how we can facilitate two-way COVID-safe travel between Australia and New Zealand, and I hope that we can see a reciprocal arrangement of quarantine-free travel with New Zealand by the year's end," Birmingham said.
"Our arrangement with New Zealand will provide a blueprint to prove up the model of how we run safe corridors – green lanes of international visitors coming in and out of Australia – and whether this can be extended to other similarly low risk countries down the track."
New Zealand heads to the polls on October 17 for a national election, which is expected to see the Labor government led by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern returned with a clear majority, with a decision on the 'trans-Tasman bubble' to follow, potentially on a bespoke basis with selected Australian states rather than the country as a whole.
As previously reported, the government considers Australia's international borders will largely remain closed until late 2021 with the exception of those two-way travel bubbles, which would mean that trips to Europe and the UK, North and South America and South Africa, among others, might not begin until 2022 at the earliest.