Samoa eyes travel bubble with Australia

by James Wilkinson

Samoa is hoping a travel bubble with Australia and other South Pacific nations soon becomes a reality, following the approval of a one-way, quarantine-free deal between New Zealand and Australia that’s set to begin on October 16.

Under the new trans-Tasman bubble, New Zealand residents will be able to skip quarantine in New South Wales and the Northern Territory, provided they have not come from a hotspot location in the prior 14 days, something Samoa wants to be a part of.

“It’s been a challenging few months, however, we want to see tourists return as soon as possible, and as Australia is planning, we’re working hard to become part of the Pacific travel bubble,” said Samoa Tourism Authority CEO, Fa’amatuainu Lenatai Suifua.

Fa’amatuainu said Samoa is feeling extremely positive about how it has responded to COVID-19, and that while its economy is heavily reliant on tourism, they have been extremely careful and considered about reopening given the country has not recorded any Coronavirus cases so far.

“We remain committed to establishing a travel bubble with Australia as soon as it can be safely done. Our principal concern is to ensure the health of Australians and Samoans is protected,” he said.

“Once travel recommences, health considerations will be at the forefront of all that we do and issues such as insurance, quarantine and testing measures will be agreed upon with the Australian Government.”

The comments came from Fa’amatuainu as Air New Zealand operated its first repatriation flight from Sydney to Apia, Samoa, last week.

All passengers were required to meet the Samoan Government’s entry requirements and return a negative COVID-19 test prior to departure.

The Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner carried around 300 Samoan nationals and residents, many of whom have been stranded in Australia since borders closed in March.

Air New Zealand’s Country Manager – Samoa, Karen Gatt, said the airline was pleased to be supporting the Samoan Government with the safe repatriation of Samoan residents from Australia.

“Air New Zealand has repatriated more than 2,000 Samoan nationals and residents from New Zealand since May and we are proud to help bring Samoan nationals and residents home during these uncertain times,” she said. “We look forward to continuing to support the Samoan Government with repatriating their citizens in the future.”