The much-hyped Australia-New Zealand travel bubble could pull the lever on a multi-billion-dollar jackpot for both countries.
Tourism operators and airlines Qantas, Virgin Australia and Air New Zealand, whose bottom lines have all been smashed by the coronavirus, will be the big winners.
The bubble, which NZ started on 19 April, has been mooted for almost a year.
Penned in since March last year, thousands of Kiwis and Australians are jumping on planes to enjoy international travel without the need for 14 days of quarantine on either side of the ditch.
More than 1.4 million Kiwis visited Australia in 2019, spending $2.6 billion, according to government figures.
Only China, with 1.43 million tourists, sent more visitors to Australia.
That pipeline of cash from Kiwi travellers has been switched off for 13 months and New Zealand is also set for a major cash injection.
More than half a million Australians cross the Tasman each year to visit family and friends.
And Australian business travellers make 200,000 trips to New Zealand annually.
With no inbound travellers, coronavirus has obliterated tourism operators on both sides of the Tasman.
Jobs have vanished and thousands have been furloughed.
Last month Qantas reported a $6.9 billion drop in revenue for the second half of 2020 because of the virus.
Hong Kong-based Alton Aviation Consultancy director Bradley Dailey has forecast Qantas could hoover up as much as $8.5 million every month if they use Airbus A330-300 aircraft on the trans-Tasman route once the travel bubble opens.
“We estimate that the monthly revenues from a daily widebody travel bubble return trip between Sydney and Auckland would gross Qantas on the order of $4.5 million to $8.5 million in passenger revenues,” he told nine.com.au.
To put this in context, he said, that financial boost is equivalent to 2 – 4 per cent of the average monthly passenger revenues earned by the Qantas group from June through December last year.
Mr Dailey said if Air New Zealand flies consistently the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner’s on the Sydney-Auckland route the Kiwi national carrier could gross between $5.2 million and $9.1 million each month.
“Considering that in 2019 Air New Zealand, Qantas, Virgin Australia, and Jetstar combined to average more than 3500 flights per month between Australia and New Zealand, the creation of a trans-Tasman travel bubble is a welcome development for airlines from both countries,” he said.
The loss of international tourism cost the Australian economy $34.3 billion in 2020, according to Austrade statistics.
Most losses, around $22.3 billion, came in the last six months of 2020.