Positive news recently broke the doom and gloom that was prevalent for most of 2020 and 2021, as Australia and New Zealand launched an air travel bubble earlier this week. This bubble facilitates travel without the need for testing or quarantines, and is a welcome move for the severely strained travel industry in the region.
The concept of travel bubbles has been around for some time now, yet its realization has been slow. Only very few bubbles have materialized due to concerns over their practicality and the risks to public health. The choice of countries to connect must be taken in a very careful manner, linking countries with similar epidemiological profiles and commitment to reducing the prevalence of COVID-19 in their communities. Further complications arise from the infrastructural challenges of maintaining separation between bubble and non-bubble passengers at airports.
However, the benefits from travel bubbles, if done in a safe way, are tremendous. The bubble between Australia and New Zealand alone has the potential to spur the rebound of volumes that topped 6 million annual passengers in 2019. Travel bubbles are an essential stepping stone for a staged and controlled recovery.
In this article, Johann Gies and Arvind Chandrasekhar explore the concept of travel bubbles further, assess past attempts at establishing bubbles and define the facilitators required for a smooth rollout. The authors also identify potential new travel bubbles by ranking markets on a ten-point scale, considering epidemiology, vaccines and traffic volumes.