New Zealand Plans To Launch A Travel Bubble With The Cook Islands

New Zealand and the Cook Islands will start a two-way travel bubble on May 17. This follows several months of a one-way travel bubble. To date, Cook Islanders have been free to enter New Zealand and skip quarantine. However, until now, the Cook Islands has not offered quarantine-free entry to New Zealanders. That will now change.

A two-way travel bubble between New Zealand and the Cook Islands will begin on May 17. Photo: Getty Images

“It will mean families can reconnect, commercial arrangements can resume, and Kiwis can take a much-welcomed winter break and support the Cook Islands’ tourism sector and recovery,” said New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Monday.

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Air New Zealand steps up services to Rarotonga

Air New Zealand is the sole airline servicing the Cook Islands. Right now, Air New Zealand has a weekly Dreamliner service to Rarotonga Airport in the Capital Islands. That’s increasing to twice a week from mid-May. By early June, Air New Zealand’s swanky Dreamliners will be jetting between Auckland and Rarotonga four times a week.

There was the potential for another Kiwi airline to fly to the Cook Islands. Late last year, a Cook Islander based in New Zealand was floating the idea of a new airline flying into Rarotonga from Wellington and Christchurch. But in recent weeks, Pasifika Air was indefinitely put on the backburner, with the businessman behind the idea suggesting now just wasn’t the right time.

This isn’t the busiest airline route in the world, but it is important to local residents. The majority of Cook Islanders live in New Zealand. That makes the ability to move freely between the two countries important. Equally, the Cook Islands economy is heavily dependant on tourism, and the island’s main source of visitors are New Zealanders chasing a bit of sunshine.

Air New Zealand is increasing its services to Rarotonga Airport (pictured). Photo: Getty Images

Trouble-free Australia-New Zealand travel bubble encourages the Cook Islands

The announcement of the travel bubble comes weeks after the two-way travel bubble between New Zealand and Australia commenced. There have been a few hiccups. For instance, flights between Perth and Auckland were “paused”, but generally, so far, so good.

The success, or rather the lack of cross-Tasman viral transmissions, has encouraged the Cook Islands to agree to the travel bubble with New Zealand.

“The learnings from the trans-Tasman arrangement have informed further bolstering of response capabilities by both Governments in preparation for the commencement of the Cook Islands – New Zealand quarantine-free travel arrangement,” says Cook Islands Prime Minister, Mark Brown.

Air New Zealand is running Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners into Rarotonga. Photo: Getty Images

The Cook Islands remains largely off-limits to Australians

If Australians thought the Cook Islands was suddenly open for business via a quick transit through Auckland Airport, the respective governments have made their positions clear on this.

In addition to threatening to fine and jail Australian citizens seeking to return from India, the same punishments potentially apply to Australians trying to slip out of their own country via New Zealand (or any other country they’ve been granted permission to travel to). That includes Australians thinking two weeks on a beach on the Cook Islands would be nice.

In any event, the Cook Islands requires a two-week stay in New Zealand before allowing quarantine-free entry. However, common sense suggests a three-way travel bubble between the Cook Islands, New Zealand, and Australia shouldn’t be too much of an issue from a health risk or logistical perspective.

If that were the case, it would see flights take off between Australia and the Cook Islands. Flights would open up Australia to the Cook Islanders. At the same time, flights would potentially turbocharge the Cook Islands tourism and hospitality sector. With virtually no other options, Australians would head there in droves.