New push for travel bubble with tropical paradise
Fiji could be one of the first international travel destinations for Australians hanging out for an overseas holiday as the country pushes for a travel bubble.
The Pacific Island nation is banking on a restart to tourism in 2021 to salvage its economy after it plunged more than 20 per cent last year, according to Griffith Asia Institute Pacific expert Tess Newton Cain.
There have been ongoing talks at both an industry and government level from Fiji with Australian authorities in a bid to kickstart a bubble.
The Australia-Fiji Business Council is urging the Federal Government to facilitate a green lane or travel arrangement as soon as possible.
Dr Cain, in a paper to be released via the Development Policy Centre on Thursday, warned the virus outbreaks in Australia could slow the push coming from the Fijian tourism sector, which is being backed by its government.
She said when there was talk of a trans-Tasman travel bubble with New Zealand, the Fijian government and tourism industry made it clear to Australian officials they wanted it extended to Fiji as soon as possible.
"It's a key to Fiji's economic survival. The Fiji Government sees a travel bubble as part of how they get the economy restarted" she said.
"They made it very clear from the beginning they were expecting those conversations to be progressed.
"I know there has been extensive lobbying by the tourism industry of parliament here."
She said protecting the Fijian population, which has had just 53 cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began with the only current cases in hotel quarantine, was key.
"We don't want people from Australia in advertently taking the virus to Fiji," Dr Cain said.
Australia-Fiji Business Council president Allison Haworth West said she urged the government to facilitate a bubble as soon as possible to help the people of Fiji.
"We realise there are challenges, but we need to come up with solutions and come up with ways to get through it," she said.
"We are hopeful it will happen, with the help of the vaccine, as soon as possible."
She said consistent dialogue between Fijian and Australian authorities had been constructive and were ongoing.
Dr Cain's paper will predict further labour mobility via the Seasonal Worker labour program, to bring farm workers into Australia, would be the most likely source of travel from the Pacific Island nations until at least the middle of the year.
Originally published as New push for travel bubble with tropical paradise