Trans-Tasman bubble: Businesses say travel announcement will save thousands of jobs

Towns and businesses that depend on international tourists say today's announcement will save thousands of jobs.

While many acknowledge the bubble may not be the silver bullet, they also point out Aussies spend twice as much as Kiwis.

Stuck fast and going nowhere. This has been the reality for Akaroa Dolphin tours.

One of their charter boats hasn't moved off its mooring in a year and today's news couldn't come soon enough.

"We desperately wanted the borders to be reopened. There's a lot of businesses in Akaroa that are in extreme hardship," says Akaroa Dolphin founder Hugh Waghorn.

While Kiwi visitors have helped keep the company afloat, they've lost almost half their business and can't wait for those Aussie dollars to roll in.

"We do know the Australians are very good spenders so we look forward to all that good Australian money," Waghorn says.

And local restaurants are also looking forward to cashing in. On average, Australians spend two times more than domestic travellers.

"When the bubble opens I'm expecting a huge boom when the Australians coming over here," says Mandala restaurant owner Muni Saneel Krishna.

Pre-COVID-19, 1.5 million Australians crossed the ditch. They made up 40 percent of all arrivals and spent $2.7 billion dollars in 2019.

But it will take a while to get back to those pre-COVID levels. Tourism New Zealand predicts a $1b boost to the economy by the end of the year, and by January next year it's still only going to be at 80 percent of pre-COVID levels.

The wait to open the bubble has come too late for many businesses.

But tourism bosses say it's better late than never.

"Some tourism businesses are just hanging on by a thread so this announcement will save thousands of jobs around the country. They will have the confidence to stay open, to keep their staff on," says Tourism Industry Aotearoa CEO Chris Roberts.

And that extends to our largest tourism operator. Air New Zealand's already rehired 330 of the 4000 staff that were axed.

"It's just a terrific vibe in Air NZ to actually now to have this light in front of us, to say 'gee we're back up and running'," says Air New Zealand CEO Greg Foran.

But it's not just the tourism industry set to benefit either - creative advertising agency Special has offices on both sides of the Tasman. In fact it opened a Melbourne branch in the middle of last year.

"It's technically possible but emotionally difficult. You want to meet these people, you want to walk around the offices. You want to put that New Zealand flavour into every office we open," CEO and founder Tony Bradbourne says.

And tourism operators can't wait to give Aussies a taste of Kiwi.

"We are really keen to see them here," Waghorn says.

There's no better time to remind them just how beautiful Aotearoa really is.