Flights between Tasmania and New Zealand are set to restart in January for the first time since 1996.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the deal on Saturday that will include 130 direct flights from Hobart each year, with three departing per week in warmer months, and two in winter.
It comes shortly after the government also announced plans to allow the state to introduce hotel quarantine and start accepting Australians stranded abroad.
“This has been an incredibly tough year for Australians, and particularly our tourism and hospitality sectors, but the deal will mean tourists from low-risk areas can come to sample Tasmania’s incredible experiences, sights and produce,” PM Morrison said.
The plan to restart travel between the two countries will reportedly cost the federal government $50 million, while state governments will contribute $10 million for structural upgrades. They will mark the first regular flights since 1996, when Air New Zealand pulled the route due to its viability.
Assistant Minister for Regional Tourism Jonathon Duniam said the flights would give Tasmania the chance to prove “one island is better than two”.
“This is the shot in the arm Tasmania’s tourism operators desperately need as they start rebuilding an industry that is stronger than it ever was before,” he said.
Before coronavirus hit, documents released to Hobart MPs pre-COVID predicted restarting the route could generate more than $100 million in tourism.
The news comes after the Prime Minister announced Hobart would provide an extra 450 spaces in a new hotel quarantine. Previously, the state wasn’t accepting international arrivals.
“We’re working every option to help as many Australians return home as quickly as possible,” the PM said.
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The country is currently taken around 6,300 arrivals per week after lifting the cap from an initial 4,000.
Last month, Australian Aviation reported how the first flights under the one-way trans-Tasman bubble landed in Sydney, with passengers now not having to undertake any form of quarantine.
The Air New Zealand 787-9, ZK-NZR msn 65088, departed Auckland at 11:06am on 16 October as flight NZ103 and touched down in Sydney at 11:59am after a two hour 53 minute journey.
Passengers arriving will have to complete a health declaration, though are otherwise able to continue their journey unrestricted. Crucially, however, passengers returning to New Zealand will have to quarantine in a government facility.
Initially, Qantas planned to operate six Sydney-Auckland return flights a week, plus four Sydney-Christchurch-Sydney flights, however, this was scaled back to scrap the latter route and operate just two flights per week due to poor demand.
Then-New Zealand deputy prime minister Winston Peters later signalled the bubble would not become reciprocal until “we know it’s safe to”.
Australian Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham has repeatedly confirmed plans are developing to make trans-Tasman travel reciprocal by the end of the year.
It came at the same time as he hinted that travel to higher-risk destinations such as Europe and the US would be off the cards next year if there wasn’t a breakthrough on a vaccine.
“We are beginning to open up to New Zealand because of their similarly strong COVID outcomes and it may be possible to do likewise with other low-risk nations,” Minister Birmingham said.
“However, the prospects of opening up widespread travel with higher risk countries will remain very reliant on effective vaccination or other major breakthroughs in the management of COVID.
“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.”
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