Air New Zealand has moved quickly to capitalize on mounting optimism a two-way trans-Tasman bubble is just weeks away by announcing Hobart as its 10th Australian destination.
The Kiwi carrier said it would launch a non-stop service between Auckland and Hobart using its A320neo fleet once quarantine-free travel is running.
Air New Zealand chief executive Greg Foran said he expected the year-round Hobart route to attract passengers on both sides of the Tasman.
“This route will be a much-needed economic boost for New Zealand’s tourism industry. Our Hobart-Auckland route will open a direct link between 540,000 potential Tasmanian tourists and our biggest city, with regional hot spots like Queenstown and Rotorua a short skip away,’’ he said.
“We’ll be providing flights on Thursdays and Sundays to make the most of domestic connectivity and provide the best long weekend options for travelers.”
The move comes as Australian Tourism Minister Dan Tehan on Friday joined his New Zealand counterpart in flagging that a deal could be near, adding that he hoped the same would happen with Singapore “in a couple of months”.
New Zealanders are able to enter NSW and Victoria without going into quarantine, although they must in some cases take a test within 72 hours of arrival and isolate until they get the result, but Australians have been unable to do the same when visiting New Zealand.
“Our hope is we’ll have a New Zealand bubble open and running properly, a two-way bubble, in the coming weeks, which would be fantastic,’’ Tehan told radio 3AW.
“Obviously, New Zealanders have been able to come here, but there is strong talk that they will create a proper two-way bubble. So, that means we’ll be able to travel to and from New Zealand.
“And, I’m hoping in a couple of months we’ll be able to do the same with Singapore.”
Tehan said Singaporean authorities were keen to establish a bubble with Australia.
“So, there is hope on the horizon for our tourism industry, especially those businesses that are reliant on international tourists,’’ he said.
Radio New Zealand reported Thursday that plans for a bubble were in full swing with hopes it would be in place by the end of April.
A proposal could go to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s cabinet as early as Monday amid growing pressure in New Zealand for a two-way agreement.
Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson said New Zealand had been working on a unilateral approach to a bubble with Australia.
“There’s a few issues still to talk through, including what we do in the event there is an outbreak, how we manage people who aren’t in their home country at that time,’’ he said.
“I’m very optimistic we’ll sort that out in reasonably short order, and we can move towards having a unilateral bubble alongside the Australian unilateral bubble.”
A number of airports are already geared up for trans-Tasman arrivals with red and green zones.