Some of Australia’s favourite island destinations have been paralysed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“They’re going to enable us to get out and see the world, which is what we love to do.”
So could this be the beginning of returning to the world we all remember before the pandemic paralysed world travel?
Mr Long told A Current Affair there are a number of destinations on the table as potential bubble destinations.
“Singapore is probably the one we’re closest to getting up and running,” Mr Long said.
“Following Singapore, you’re looking at places like Japan and South Korea but more likely are places like Fiji, Vanuatu and the Cook Islands.
“Those Pacific islands that can open up to New Zealand first and then Australia.”
Before COVID-19, more than a million Aussies a year visited Bali and now the Indonesian Government has a bold plan to open up the holiday island as a travel bubble.
“I’m sure this will happen,” Francisca Handoko from Bali’s Hotel Association said.
“The government plans to vaccinate 70 per cent of the population here to get ‘herd’ immunity by the end of the year.
“Once that is done there will be three isolated green zones where Aussies can stay – one in Sanur, one in Nusa Dua and one in Ubud.”
Margaret Barry has been knighted for her charity work with children in Bali.
She said the effect of the pandemic has been catastrophic with no tourists.
“It’ll be brilliant, wonderful,” Dame Margaret, who has lived in Bali for 30 years, said.
“I have friends and family who have been unable to visit me here so it will be amazing when it happens.”
She said Bali would be high on the list once Australians can jet overseas.
“Australians love to travel,” Dame Margaret said.
“And at some point, the Australian population is going to say ‘hey, we’re sick of this, we want to get out of town.'”
Dame Margaret has already had her first dose of the vaccine and is impressed with how the Balinese authorities are using empty hotels as mass vaccination centres.
“They’re playing to their strengths,” she said.
“Using the vast empty foyers of luxury hotels where everyone can socially distance and wait calmly for their jab.”
The only problem will be that unlike the trans-Tasman bubble with New Zealand, Bali also plans to invite other countries as well as Australia.
Ms Handoko said the bubble will probably include people from Singapore, the United Arab Emirates, China and the Netherlands.
Back in Australia, Mr Long says the way international travel opens up will be like a game of chess.
“For example, if Bali opens up to China and Russia and the Australian Government doesn’t feel they have enough protection with those visitors, they won’t open the bubble,” he said.
“Realistically, I don’t see us opening any more travel bubbles in 2021 because of the delay in the vaccine rollout here.
“We can’t go to Singapore or Bali until we are vaccinated and vice versa, so until we get mass vaccination we won’t be able to open other travel bubbles.
This week Prime Minister Scott Morrison admitted the government won’t make the planned rollout deadline after problems with the AstraZeneca vaccine saw a recommendation it not be given to people under 50.
Qantas boss Alan Joyce had previously said he hoped the airline would be back flying internationally from October but now admits travel bubbles will be the way when overseas travel starts again.
Virgin has announced it will start flights to New Zealand in September and has gone on a recruitment drive to find staff to cope with the growing domestic travel market and the possibility of going further afield.
But when we do finally take-off, what help can we expect from travel insurance?
On their websites, most insurers now offer some form of COVID-19 insurance but Lisa Kable from the Insurance Council of Australia says no insurance will cover you for border closures or if you go to a country which is not considered safe by our government.
“The only country considered safe, at this stage, is New Zealand,” Ms Kable said.
“There is COVID cover before you leave Australia and then should you come down with COVID in the bubble country.
“So the best thing to do is look at the conditions that are covered by companies’ COVID policies.”
Mr Long added: “So my tip is Queenstown for a great winter holiday this year.
“With only Aussies and Kiwis and nobody else to crash the party, it sounds good.”