Tasmania intends to open up its borders to international travelers—30,000 of them per year—beginning next January. News of this came via a press release on the Australian prime minister’s website.
Scott Morrison’s government negotiated the deal with Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein’s government via walkie talkie. Not really. But Canberra did agree to invest $49.2 million to make sure Hobart Airport will be able to accommodate three flights from New Zealand per week in the summer and two per week in the winter. Much of that money will go toward installing the necessary government personnel, namely border agents, federal police and biosecurity officers.
Given the massive toll the coronavirus pandemic has taken on Australia’s tourism and hospitality industries, the travel arrangement is a particularly welcome bit of news. Morrison described it as a “shot in the arm” for Tasmania.
“Safely opening to Australia and New Zealand will be a shot in the arm for Tassie tourism and jobs,” he said.
“This has been an incredibly tough year for Australians and particularly our tourism and hospitality sectors, but this deal will mean tourists from low-risk areas can come to sample Tasmania’s incredible experiences, sights and produce.
“While the pandemic might have set back the timetable for making Hobart an international airport, it is just going to mean more pent up demand for the best Tasmania has to offer.”
Tasmania’s end of the bargain includes a $17.5 million investment to expand the capabilities of Hobart Airport and make it international. Premier Gutwein emphasized the “terrific” impact the deal is likely to have on the island state’s economy.
“For the first time in more than two decades Tasmania will welcome international flights from New Zealand,” he said. “This is a unique opportunity to travel between two extraordinary island destinations, and a terrific boost for local jobs across our tourism sector, including more jobs at our Airport as we undertake upgrades in the coming weeks to accommodate international arrangements.”
He went on to extend a personal invitation to New Zealand tourists:
“2020 has been a challenging year, but this is a sensational coup, and I invite New Zealanders to come to Tasmania and discover what makes this place so very special.”