Kiwi Conversations #3: The Trans-Tasman Bubble

24 May 2021

Unpacking the thoughts, fears and dreams of Kiwis with the announcement of the Trans-Tasman travel bubble

So, what did we want to find out? 

The Trans-Tasman Bubble was announced to be opened on the 19th of April 2021, allowing quarantine-free travel between New Zealand and Australia. We wanted to capture Kiwi’s thoughts and feelings about the opening between when it was announced and when it commenced. We ran a survey from the 12th to the 14th April and connected with over 1000 Kiwis from our One Picture panel.

We wanted to find out...

  1. How are Kiwis feeling about the Trans-Tasman bubble opening?
  2. Are Kiwis ready to welcome other countries into New Zealand?
  3. How have Kiwi’s perceptions of Australia changed since pre-COVID times?
  4. What impact has the opening of the Trans-Tasman bubble had on Kiwi’s willingness to travel? 

Learning #1 - Despite the anticipated demand and political pressures, Kiwis have gotten cold feet now that the bubble has opened... 

Why are Kiwis feeling...

Nervous because of the fear of covid coming back

“I feel nervous because covid-19 is still prevalent all over the world, and NZ & Australia are not done yet with vaccinating everyone, I might get covid from the airport or from the people in the same plane as I will be. I am also excited and happy as I get to explore Australia (target states I plan to visit are Gold Coast & Sydney) and reunite with family & friends.”

Happy because we’ll be rebuilding the economy

“As someone who previously worked in travel and tourism prior loosing job from covid, this is a great first step to get some normalcy for both Aus and NZ, great opportunities for people to see family/friends and start opening up tourism a bit further for both countries. I like the safety traffic light plan we have in place but of course we are yet to see how effective this will all be once it starts.”

Anxious because of the fear of the unknown

“The world is still in a state of unknown with Covid and even with the rollout of the vaccine there is still a lot of unknowns about the virus and even questions over how long the vaccine is effective for, and while we’ve done extremely well in our bubble of 5 million, opening the boarders up to Australia also increases the risk of another breakout.”

Excited because it provides a glimmer of hope in a hopeless time

“I’m excited because our country needs this. Closing the borders/lockdowns are causing more grief / depression and even suicides in NZ. At lease this is a first sign that things are improving. Vaccines are working , things are going back to normal. I’m keen to reconnect with family apart and travel again.” 

So: While Kiwis don’t quite feel ready to board the next flight to Australia, there is an opportunity to strengthen our domestic tourism market for those who feel more comfortable with staying on our side of the bubble. 

Learning #2 - We miss our friends and family over the ditch, but not enough to feel the need to make a mad dash over 

So: The domestic travel opportunity is still alive and well despite the reopening of the travel bubble – now is the time to ramp up the importance of prioritising making the most of our own country before we start to consider traveling overseas 

Learning #3 – We’re far from our perfect Aussie holiday... 

Stringent hygiene precautions

Aware that we’ll never be “back to pre-COVID” times, precautionary methods such as wearing masks when travelling and using hand sanitizer has become the new norm. 

“Everyone should be wearing masks, keeping as much distance as possible, I won't be eating or drinking anything, I will be either using a truckload of hand sanitiser or going through a LOT of gloves, and I will be very conscious of NOT touching my face - and I expect others to do the same.”


While we’re excited to help rebuild Australia’s tourism industry again, we’re aware that we’re likely to be met with higher prices to make up for the lost income. 

“Flights more expensive, possibly many touristic places and restaurants closed permanently due to hospitality being impacted severely, hotels are taken for MIQs.” 

Anti-tourist sentiment

The time spent in our countries’ separate bubbles has left Kiwis feeling as though they’re not likely to be given a warm welcoming upon arrival. 

“People being extra cautious about interacting with you as soon as they realise you don't live in Australia.” 

So: We need to ensure that we’re communicating this idea of ‘the new normal’ – a new way of living where we have to adjust the way we live and travel for our ongoing protection against Covid and its impacts 

Learning #4 – Though we’re not quite ready to make the trip to AUS, we’re happy to have Aussies visit to help us rebuild our economy 

For the economy

“I work in the events/tourism industry and I think for that alone, it means new clients, new money coming through and the small glimmer of hope that not the entire industry will die off.”

“I think many businesses have realised how much more money tourism brings to the country. So I'd say many would-be extremely welcoming. I also surround myself with positive international people so perhaps my ideas are swayed that way. But I also know many farmers are hoping to take advantage of workers from NZ or Australia to help their harvest seasons so I think it will help with more than just tourism.”

“The hit that tourism and hospitality businesses are taking is so well covered in the news so I like to think that NZers will be pleased to see tourists come in and spending money.” 

Safety concerns

“It's safer to stay in the same spot in case of virus transmission. I am not in a hurry to travel anywhere so I rather not risk it."

“Well clearly, there will be risk involved with the trans tasman bubble opening. I think I will be more cautious about larger groups of people in restaurants, holiday destinations, planes or activities that involve groups of people etc Let's face it we haven't been vaccinated largely and been unexposed to the rest of the world. So we have a reasonably high risk factor I would have thought?.”

“Because now there will be people all over the place who may have lied about their health to get over here. It’s human nature. Look how hard it is to get people to scan and wear masks already. We’ll be in lockdown again soon.” 

So: We need to remind Australians the warm and welcoming attitudes of Kiwis to attract them to visiting New Zealand 

Learning #5 – The reintroduction of Australian tourists has had little change on how safe we feel travelling in our own country

Don't feel safe

Some of us feel like we have a lot more preparation to go before we can travel domestically among Aussie tourists, given the unpredictability of new strains and that vaccinations are not yet fully available.

“I feel for the tourist industry, but what price is put on a human life, there are random cases popping up and could strand travelers either side of the ditch, not so very long ago Victoria had a large number of deaths and the new strains more deadly than the previous ones.” 

Feel Safe

Most Kiwis don’t feel inhibited from travelling domestically by the opening of the Trans-Tasman bubble as they trust in the systems we have in place and see the reopening as beneficial to both our economy and our people. 

“I believe that we have robust contact tracing and other controls and that Australians will feel the same way as us around keeping the bubble operating and both countries open. Therefore I have no increased concerns about domestic travel.” 

So: Our domestic strategy should centre around the shared experience of exploring New Zealand alongside Australian tourists 

Learning #6 - The Trans-Tasman bubble opening doesn’t impact on our domestic travel either way 

Travelling less

Saving up for international travel – Aware that we won’t be stuck in our domestic bubble forever, Kiwis are starting to financially prepare for future international travel. So: Domestically, keep giving them something aspirational to dream about to win back this mentally allocated travel dollar.

Have travelled domestically enough – Limited to domestic travel for over a year, we’re feeling like we’ve thoroughly explored NZ and are content about toning down our frequency of domestic travel. So: As we move from encouraging them to try something new we need to shift to the leavers that will have them coming back next year. 

Fear of Covid transmission – Some of us are fear that continued domestic travel with the addition of Australian tourists will eradicate all the hard work we did to control our Covid cases. So: Systems, procedures and the continued immunisation role out will give the confidence to exploring. 

Travelling more

Supporting local business – The ‘support your local’ sentiment is still strong, even as we reopen our borders. We feel the need to prioritise rebuilding our businesses before we start to consider supporting other countries. So: Doubling down on our strengthening national pride and our patriotic duty to explore our own backyard first.

Safer to travel domestically – We feel safer here and we’re happy to stay in NZ until we feel confident with other countries’ Covid control actions enough to travel internationally. So: Asking NZers to invite friends and family here will allow us meet the greatest need for thinking about traveling off shore. 

More left to explore – The border closures have given us new opportunities to travel to places in NZ that we hadn’t previously considered... and still have more to go. So: Understanding the levers of a great NZ holiday so we can continue to encourage Nzers to dream, plan and book in their own country. 

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Tags: One Picture, Neighbourhood, Kiwi Conversations, COVID19, New Zealand, Insights, Travel & tourism