Fiji, with a sharp collapse in tax revenue, is proposing a “Bula Bubble” with New Zealand and Australia.
Last week I wrote mentioning the Solomon Islands is looking towards the New Zealand and Australia Governments for inclusion in a so-called ‘South Pacific travel bubble’ to help its struggling travel sector get back up.
Josefa Tuamato, Tourism Solomons CEO, told the Solomon Times, “The year kicked off with a very healthy 6.11 per cent increase over the same period in 2019; traditionally our strongest month – but three months on and we saw an almost minus 70 per cent deficit in March.”
It is evident from the latest Radio New Zealand news bulletin, that Fiji’s economy has been lowered from stable to negative after the Covid-19 pandemic had triggered a sharp collapse in tax revenue and in the tourism sector.
Given the current economic situation, Fiji's government has just announced a scheme it hopes will lead to tourists from New Zealand and Australia visiting the country.
“Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama said Fiji was working on a "Bula Bubble", between his country, New Zealand and Australia.
“Upon arrival, travellers would have to spend 14 days in Fiji government quarantine facilities and then be required to pass a Covid-19 test to enter the general public.
“This would be at their own cost or that of their respective government.
“All movement of the tourists would be contained within special "VIP lanes", from the plane, to Nadi Airport and then onto designated transport to their official accommodation where they would remain throughout their stay.
“Mr Bainimarama said there would also be a "Pacific Pathways" system run by Fiji Airways which would start with travellers from Tuvalu, Kiribati and Tonga.
“He said as the only island country with a World Health Organisation-certified testing lab, and being at the heart of Pacific aviation, Fiji was poised to become a "safely regulated" regional quarantine hub.
“Mr Bainimarama said that as risk assessments evolved, Fiji could expand the arrangement to include Samoa, Vanuatu and Solomon Islands.
“According to him, all Pacific Pathways flights would be run in adherence to the airline's new 'Travel Ready' protocols.
“This included staff wearing masks, all planes being regularly sanitised, while health and wellness would be managed by "newly established on-board personnel".
“Passengers would also be health screened before boarding flights with those showing symptoms of coronavirus not allowed on board.
“Mr Bainimarama added that incoming passengers would be health screened again on arrival.”
Footnote: The Solomon Islands is free of Covid-19, and has health screening/testing equipment and quarantine facilities in readiness.
Source: Radio New Zealand.