Tourism is the region’s biggest industry and while it has been completely shutdown since the beginning of COVID-19, locals are looking forwards to reopening.
The Fijian Government said it is hoping to have Australian and New Zealand tourists return for holidays ‘as soon as possible’.
Australia and New Zealand have floated the possibility of creating a trans-Tasman bubble where people will be able to travel freely between the two countries.
Australians may be allowed to holiday on picturesque beaches in Fiji (pictured) as the Pacific Islands push to join the country’s international travel bubble with New Zealand
Australia and New Zealand are currently in talks of having a trans-Tasman bubble where people will be able to exclusively travel between the countries (people at Sydney airport)
The Fijian Government has formally requested to join the bubble, ABC News reported.
Discussions are believed to be underway between Australia, New Zealand and Fiji but there is still no official time frame for the travel bubble proposal.
Federal Liberal MP and co-convenor of the Parliamentary Friends of the Pacific Group Dave Sharma told the Lowy Institute travel to Fiji may resume this year.
‘I would think we should have some parameters in place that would be allowing us to commence this sort of thing and possibly even sooner,’ Mr Sharma said.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison is hoping once travel arrangements are organised with New Zealand he will then look at the ‘broader Pacific family’.
Both Australia and New Zealand will be cautious with travel to the Pacific Islands as they do not want to spread the coronavirus further than their own countries.
Fiji Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said the decisions will take time.
‘We’ve obviously put our hand up, we want to look at how we can place ourselves in a more prime position,’ he said.
Australia’s High Commissioner to Fiji, John Feakes, said the initial travel arrangements will be hashed out between Australia and New Zealand.
The Fijian Government has formally requested to join the bubble (pictured: Fijian women doing traditional dance)
Once the work is completed to open up the trans-Tasman bubble it will then look to include Fiji.
‘But our principal concern is to make sure that the health of New Zealanders, Australians and Fijians is protected,’ Mr Feakes said.
Medical, health, travel insurance, quarantine and testing measures are all considerations that governments will look into.
Tracing potential cases of the virus is also critical and Fiji is beginning a trial of its own version of a coronavirus tracing app.
Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said Fiji is feeling positive about how it has responded to the pandemic with only 18 cases of the virus, and none recorded in the past four weeks.
Although the numbers are low, the testing rate is far lower than Australia and New Zealand.
While COVID-19 cases are low across the Pacific Islands there is a push to increase testing to ensure cases have not fallen through the cracks.
Fiji (pictured) is seen as a leader among the Pacific Island countries because of its interests, booming tourism and experience with COVID-19
Fiji has been the most vocal about wanting to join the travel bubble but Vanuatu has also expressed interest.
Vanuatu is also heavily reliant on tourism and is cautious about reopening its borders but confirmed it has had talks with Australia.
Meanwhile The Cook Islands are also keen on reopening borders with the right measures in place.
Not only will the travel bubble in the Pacific open up holiday opportunities for Australians but it will also provide new trade opportunities.
The Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forums, Dame Meg Taylor, confirmed that multiple countries approached Australia and New Zealand about being included.
But she admitted it will take time as the main priority is health of Pacific Islanders.
‘We just don’t have strong health systems, health services and health infrastructure,’ Dame Meg said.
Source: Daily Mail New Zealand